Last Night: Fleetwood Mac at the BankAtlantic Center

Fleetwood Mac
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Bank Atlantic Center, Sunrise

Better Than: A Big Mac

Having seen Fleetwood Mac at least a dozen times, and Stevie Nicks on her own probably twice as many, suffice to say I have a bit of history to compare Thursday night's stop in SoFla for the Fleetwood Mac "Unleashed: Hits Tour 2009."

For all the Mac fans out there (I am one of you, remember, before you continue reading further), there's no doubt of the talent and greatness of each of these demigods, including Ms. Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie. But Thursday night's concert left a hollow spot in my gypsy soul.

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The multi-Grammy-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees haven't released any new material since 2003's "Say You Will." So this latest tour is to dust off the old chestnuts that continue to make this band a draw whether there's something new to pitch or not.

Mick Fleetwood said in a recent interview, "For the very first time, we're going out on the road without an album. All of the energy is really about just getting out there and putting on a show that really resonates emotionally."

Mick, that sounds all well and good, so what happened?

On Thursday night, every one was on autopilot. It was like my old bar band days when we'd be like, "Let's collect the money and get the hell outta here" after singing an evening full of cover tunes. Then, the crowd loved it, so we had done our job. Same thing with Fleetwood Mac, who has now become a cover band of their own tunes. The crowd loved it, so they had done their job.

At least Stevie remembered what Florida city she was playing in. A few years ago, while I was reviewing a show in Philadelphia, Nicks blurted out, "Hello, Pittsburggggh!" This time it was, "Fort Lauderdaaaaaaaaale. It's great to be here!"

I so wholeheartedly wanted to embrace this iconic woman of rock, but I couldn't get beyond the Ghost of Nicks Past. On May 26, the rock chanteuse will be 61. Just for comparison's sake, a few months ago I caught Chrissie Hynde's show. The mascara-laden frontwoman of the Pretenders is 57, but she sure kicks it. And as long as I'm on the subject, freakin' Patti Smith is 62. And the high energy she exhibited at the last show I saw of hers in New York wasn't from a bunch of Red Bull's, but rather from a real passion.

But on Thursday night, it was Nicks, mostly, who had put herself on cruise control, propped up in front of a microphone, chortling out her greatest hits like "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Sara," and "Gypsy."

Maybe what distracted me the most was my vantage point ― I was sitting with side view from the right, almost backstage (I purchased my ticket late in the game, yet ended up having a surprisingly good seat). Perched at my bird's-eye view, I could see that Nicks had triple the usual number of monitors in front of her, and -- OMG! -- she was using a teleprompter. The last time I saw that was for Mick Jagger during the last Stones tour.

Okay, okay, so Barack Obama relies on a teleprompter, and so does Jagger, so I should give Stevie a break right? Yes, I agree. But then I saw it: stage directions for the aging diva. Before the lyrics to "Gold Dust Woman" scrolled, there it was, one such directive: "GO GET CAPE!" And another one later: "GO TO TENT!"

Even though a teleprompter had to steer her around like an electric wheelchair, there was no denying the magic in the music. If you just closed your eyes and went with the flow, when those opening strains of "The Chain" and "Gold Dust Woman" smacked you in the face, it didn't matter whether Stevie couldn't complete her trademark twirl. Or that Mick Fleetwood was now channeling Santa Claus with his dark beard now shockingly white. Lindsay even was able to convince me that "Big Love" was no longer about "looking out for love," but about the "power of change."

And I liked Stevie's story that she tooled around Fort Lauderdale and happened upon some guy named Yuri the boot-maker who was going to fix her up with some hand-tooled leather boots. Then she dedicated "Landslide" to him.

No matter how much I fought against the force of this current incarnation of Fleetwood Mac (at least it's still all the original members sans the smooth-voiced Christine McVie), there they were in the flesh. Even if that flesh was starting to age. And there's little better in this world than spending two hours seeing one of your favorite bands live, surrounded by their presence, even if they are only there in spirit.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Why do bands bother with encores? Following along with FM set lists published for other dates on the tour, I knew there were going to be three encore songs. So why not just build them into the show rather than having the audience stroke egos? And what a let-down selecting the elusive "Silver Springs" as the final song.

Random Detail: Nicks told the crowd Thursday that her song "Gypsy" was inspired by San Francisco's "Summer of Love" and the Velvet Underground.  In one interview I read, she said, "Gypsy is about, um, going back to the gypsy that I was prior to Fleetwood Mac." In a 1998 interview, she said: "In the song "Gypsy" it says, Going back to the velvet underground/ Back to the floor... which means my bed went back on the floor, with the paper flowers and the, you know, there's a part of that [era] there will never be again ...except that it does live in my house because it was so special." Huh?

By the Way: The band canceled its Sunday, April 26 show in Greensboro, N.C., due to "scheduling conflicts." That usually means lack of ticket sales.

Set List:

1. Monday Morning
2. The Chain
3. Dreams
4. I Know I'm Not Wrong
5. Gypsy
6. Go Insane
7. Rhiannon
8. Second Hand News
9. Tusk
10. Sara
11. Big Love
12. Landslide
13. Never Going Back Again
14. Storms
15. Say That You Love Me
16. Gold Dust Woman
17. Oh Well
18. I'm So Afraid
19. Stand Back
20. Go Your Own Way

21. World Turning
22. Don't Stop

Second encore
23. Silver Springs

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