Fleetwood Mac sparkled as they united their fans at the end of a terrible Saturday | Bleader

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Fleetwood Mac sparkled as they united their fans at the end of a terrible Saturday

Posted By on 10.09.18 at 02:30 PM

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click to enlarge Fleetwood Mac at the United Center, from left to right: Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Neil Finn, and Mike Campbell - PHIL CLARKIN
  • Phil Clarkin
  • Fleetwood Mac at the United Center, from left to right: Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Neil Finn, and Mike Campbell

Maybe after seeing liar, bully, and partisan hack Brett Kavanaugh bulldozed onto the Supreme Court by the GOP on Saturday afternoon, you couldn't imagine doing anything as celebratory as attending an arena concert. But if that devastating development for American democracy—and especially for American women—had you wanting to escape into familiar songs brimming with female energy and tinged with mysticism, you could've done a lot worse than the Fleetwood Mac show at the United Center.

The second date on a tour called "An Evening with Fleetwood Mac," it was also the group's third gig since parting ways with longtime guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham in April. That move put more of the spotlight on singer Stevie Nicks and singer-keyboardist Christine McVie, along with the two men the band recruited to fill Buckingham's shoes: guitarist-vocalist Neil Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House) and lead guitarist Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers).

Those four were of course joined by the rhythm section for which the band is named—exuberant drummer Mick Fleetwood and comparatively reserved bassist John McVie—as well as three auxiliary musicians and two backup singers. They came onstage to a roar from the crowd and opened with "The Chain," kicking off a set that spanned the band's five-decade history, mixing familiar hits with songs written before Nicks and Buckingham joined in 1975—and throwing in some surprise covers. Presumably because Christine McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac in 2014 (she'd left in 1998 in search of a quieter life), the set notably emphasized tunes she's written or cowritten for the band, including "Everywhere," "Say You Love Me," and "Little Lies."

To me, arenas are the least optimal type of concert venue: they're usually crowded and expensive, and the distance between artist and fan can make performances feel impersonal, especially compared to a club or house show. In fact, before Saturday I hadn't been to an arena concert in more than a decade. But despite my misgivings (and my general discomfort around huge numbers of people), the night turned out to be pretty fun. Fleetwood Mac are pros, with the expertise to connect with fans all the way up in the nosebleeds—any listener who's willing can come along with them on their musical journey.

"Willing" seems to be the right word here, or at least it did from where I was sitting. For each fan singing along with every song, there was another who got riled up for the big singles and then sat back down for everything else. Those apparently more casual fans didn't even perk up visibly when Fleetwood, John McVie, Campbell, and the other instrumentalists launched into hard-hitting, extended solos or grooves—this brings up questions about who goes to arena concerts and why, but that's a conversation probably best left to another time.

click to enlarge Fleetwood Mac with bonus chandelier - PHIL CLARKIN
  • Phil Clarkin
  • Fleetwood Mac with bonus chandelier

When the crowd erupted in song for the hits, it did my heart good—a chorus of thousands of women's voices joining in on "Dreams" or "Landslide" turned out to be a decent salve for the painful, misogynist national discourse that's surrounded Kavanaugh for weeks. And whether the crowd recognized it or not, Fleetwood Mac had clearly put a lot of care and feeling into building their set list—they took the trouble to introduce songs associated with former members Peter Green (who wrote "Black Magic Woman") and Daniel David Kirwan (who took a famous guitar solo on "Oh Well").

If you didn't know that Campbell and Finn were new additions, you'd never have guessed. Finn blended his voice perfectly into harmonies with Nicks and Christine McVie, carried off Buckingham's vocal parts effortlessly, and of course sounded right at home when the group covered the 1979 Split Enz single "I Got You" and the 1986 Crowded House hit "Don't Dream It's Over." The chemistry among the musicians seemed natural and familiar, as if they'd been working together for years rather than just a couple of months of rehearsals.

Fleetwood Mac famously played Bill Clinton's first inauguration in 1993, and in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, Nicks went on the record as a Hillary Clinton supporter. In an interview with the New York Times she predicted that Clinton would triumph, and quipped that she'd like to put together a group to perform "Landslide" in celebration. In light of that—and in light of the fact that Nicks and Christine McVie have persevered in the face of sexism and misogyny throughout their decades in the music business—I was curious if anyone onstage would comment on the events of the day. But throughout Fleetwood Mac's two-and-a-half-hour set, all the onstage talk focused on the band's legacy and music. That music continues to bring together longtime fans and new generations of listeners, which is an achievement in and of itself. Though the crowd skewed older, there were plenty of teenagers too, many decked out in feathered hairstyles, scarves, and bell-bottoms worthy of Nicks and Christine McVie.

Finally, at the end of their three-song encore—"Free Falling" (the Tom Petty song), "Don't Stop," and the Nicks-McVie duet "All Over Again"—Fleetwood left the crowd with some parting wisdom. "Take care of yourselves, and more importantly, in this very strange world we seem to be living in, remember to be kind to one another," he said. "And remember we love you so very much."

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