July 26, 2003
The following is a review of the July 25 Fleetwood Mac concert in the Rose Garden in Portland, OR.
Buckingham and Nicks lead a new Mac attack
The latest Fleetwood Mac performed Friday night at the Rose Garden arena, delighting the crowd with more than two hours of big hits and unburied treasures.
But the fact that this was a Fleetwood Mac with both Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, but not with Christine McVie, made it a different Fleetwood Mac than the one that last visited the Northwest, in 1997 at the Tacoma Dome.
It bears keeping in mind that there have been many Fleetwood Macs dating to the late 1960s. The constants have been the band's founders and namesakes, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.
When the band last played Portland a decade ago, Buckingham was off pursuing an artistically fruitful but commercially modest solo career. This tour is the first in three decades without Christine McVie, the bassist's ex-wife, who simply opted for retirement. And her absence along with Buckingham's return makes for perhaps the most interesting dynamic yet.
Some of the band's most sweetly reassuring material ("You Make Loving Fun," for instance) no longer is available to it, as a practical matter. Instead, the focus is evenly split between the group's contrasting eccentrics, Buckingham and Nicks.
In fact, the show opened with Buckingham singing lead on "The Chain" (a lyric and melody Nicks wrote, interestingly), which testifies to the power and weight of their bond. The tension of their long-ago breakup no longer lingers -- except perhaps in "Silver Spring," when she turns his way for the line "You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you" -- and in its place is a touching sense of accommodation between two powerful personalities. This came through most clearly Friday during a pair of mid-show duets, her "Landslide" and his new "Say Goodbye," with only Buckingham's deft acoustic guitar for accompaniment.
Nicks' voice is darker and more nasal than it used to be, but it was in fine form all the same -- and when she sang in "Landslide" that "I'm getting older, too," the crowd cheered in an apparent show of solidarity. She treated her faithful followers to hit after gauzy, mystically romantic hit -- "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Gypsy," "Gold Dust Woman" -- plus lesser-known nuggets such as "Beautiful Child" from the "Tusk" album.
Buckingham was more volatile, simmering with sexual tension ("Big Love," "Come," "Tusk") and angst ("I'm So Afraid"), then exploding into furious electric guitar catharsis. He also showed his tender side, fingerpicking intricate figures on the redemptive "Never Going Back Again."
Those two were backed by plentiful skill and power. Fleetwood remains the band's pounding lifeblood, giving rock a kind of rolling tribal character. McVie is one of those bassists who hide in plain sight, so unassuming a stage presence you have to remind yourself to look for him. Yet he adds an essential, unmistakable sound and the feeling of the band.
In short, this is one Fleetwood Mac you would like to stick around. Marty Hughley: 503-221-8383; firstname.lastname@example.org