April 10, 2015
Los Angeles, CA
Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Maria Huizinga
The first time I saw Fleetwood Mac in concert was on May 28, 2013 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. I’d had other opportunities over the years, but, regrettably, I never took them up. I suppose I could have hit up Mick Fleetwood for some tickets when I interviewed him during the sessions for 2003's Say You Will, the first Fleetwood Mac album featuring the classic Rumours lineup minus Christine McVie, who retired from the band in 1998. I didn’t bother.
Even as they continued to tour and record with Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham at the core, everyone was constantly reminded of Christine McVie’s absence. Nicks was even quoted in one interview as suggesting she’d quit if McVie wouldn’t rejoin. I’ll admit that when I saw them, I could only half check it off my bucket list because McVie and many of the songs she wrote were missing from the set.
Wouldn’t you know that four months after the Anaheim show, Christine McVie did join the band for “Don’t Stop” at two London shows, which opened the door for a full-on reconciliation and expanded touring grid in 2014. I missed them in November, but when I heard they were coming back in April, the urge to finally catch them proper took hold. As an admirer of the brilliance and craftsmanship of Rumours, it was vital to see the five, still alive, together. As they would prompt everyone in attendance during the first of their two-night stand (four days apart) at the Forum, having Christine McVie back is a big deal.
After a heavy dose of “The Chain” and a “How ya’ doing!” greeting to get things started, McVie took the reins for “You Make Loving Fun” and the measured tone of the show was immediate. As Fleetwood had explained to me, without McVie in the mix, it fell back to a more Buckingham-Nicks vibe. Not a bad thing on its own, but when you add McVie’s songs, voice and keyboards, the whole Fleetwood Mac experience feels more complete. I don’t believe I am alone in that assessment.
Nicks announced that tonight’s show was their seventy-seventh of the tour before acknowledging Christine McVie’s return (“she’s baaaaack”). The famed chantress sounded vibrant on both “Dreams” and “Rhiannon,” evoking images of spiritual skylines and temples (at least on the backdrop). “Second Hand News” got a kick in rear from Buckingham’s wild, highly unorthodox style of soloing. Without the use of a pick, the guitarist singled out sizzling notes, though it looked more like he was carelessly brushing and pounding his fingers against the strings. This was all happening as he paced and skipped across the front of the stage, intensified at each sashay.
Aagainst snowy landscapes, McVie herself came to the microphone and said it was great to be back. “I’m having the best time ever,” she announced before slipping into the light and breezy “Everywhere” from 1987’s Tango In The Night album. Her turns on “Over My Head” and “Little Lies” would generate a little more excitement, but when she closed the show with “Songbird,” sitting before a grand piano and accompanied by only Buckingham on acoustic, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
But before that happened, there was a lot more ground to cover. They pulled out a pair from the criminally underrated Tusk — the contagiously catchy “I Know I'm Not Wrong” followed by the rumbling roll of the album’s title track. It might have received a bigger reception if the actual USC marching band had come out and joined the band on stage instead of on the video screens, logistics and coordination notwithstanding. Well, there’s always Tuesday’s show.
As Mick Fleetwood would point out during band introductions, Lindsey Buckingham easily logged the most stage time, not only with the band, but alone with an acoustic on the raw and angst-ridden “Big Love,” which he dedicated to his daughter LeeLee (although the intensity toward the end belied the sentiment somewhat). Of course, he stuck around when Nicks took over with “Landside” and dedicated it to her brother Christopher. She would later preface “Gypsy” with tales of how she and Buckingham opened for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Not to be outdone, Fleetwood played a spirited and solid drum solo in the middle of “World Turning” while he yacked, yoodled, chanted and howled to the audience’s delight. Eventually John McVie joined in, but spent most of the night in the shadows, ably anchoring the low end. As when I had seen them before, the band was supplemented by Brett Tuggle on keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Neale Heywood on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, and Sharon Celani, Lori Nicks and Stevvi Alexander on backing vocals.
An extended version of “Gold Dust Woman” found the band in a deep jam mode uncharacteristic of their soft-rock image. But it was during the first encore of “World Turning,” “Don't Stop” and “Silver Springs,” that I recognized the beauty and poise of Fleetwood Mac as a rock and roll unit. Sure, they have other players up there filling out the sound, but the chemistry between the five came to a spark during those moments. And I could finally finish the check on my bucket list — that I had seen the classic and complete lineup of Fleetwood Mac.