BB&T Center, Sunrise
Friday, December 19, 2014
Better than: Anyone had the right to expect.
All those who packed into the BB&T Center at the penultimate show of the much-heralded Fleetwood Mac reunion tour truly felt they were attending a landmark event.
After some 48 years of slinging hugely successful albums and holding down a reputation as rock's most notorious traveling soap opera, the band's sold-out performance was testimony to its longevity and durability. But the fact that the band still sounds remarkable -- some might say better than ever -- ensured its three hour, awe-inspiring show was one for the ages.
And much was made of the fact that Christine McVie's return to the fold after an absence of 15 years was a remarkable feat in itself.
"She's back!" Stevie Nicks noted at the outset. It was a feeling of euphoria that Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood echoed at various points throughout the 24-song set, packed with hits, fan favorites, and even the occasional rarity. Indeed, it was well worth noting that at age 71, McVie looks at least 20 years younger, and her rich, riveting vocals showed no sign of diminishing.
In truth, the same could be said of each member of this tireless ensemble. Nicks retained her trademark quiver, her top hat, her granny dresses, and a mystic fairy-queen sensibility -- not to mention the ability to literally spin in circles whenever the occasion called.
Buckingham, at age 65, showed the dexterity of someone half his age, whether he was goose-stepping across the stage, adopting a reliable rock star posture, or proving, yet again, that despite the competition from predecessors like Peter Green or Jeremy Spencer, he remains one of the nimblest guitarists Mac has ever fronted.
Fleetwood himself is far from a figurehead, a remarkable time keeper whose tasteful flourishes, commanding rhythms, and role as the band's eternal cheerleader often puts him center stage. He offered a semi-unplugged interlude, a breathless drum solo, and heartfelt and humbling remarks as the concert came to a close.
As for that other individual name-checked in the band's handle, suffice it to say he played the role of the stoic bass player to a tee, yet his apparent lack of an onstage persona and reticence to join the others in sharing the kudos and commentary offered the impression he was basically along for the ride.
It's a remarkable thing that even now, the group's voices and harmonies are as vibrant as they were back in the beginning.
While many veteran bands need an army of support players to effectively convey their classic melodies, the Mac brings along a relatively sparse support team consisting of two extra musicians on guitar, occasional keyboards, and three subtle backing singers to, at times, flesh out the vocals. That leaves the main players to do the heavy lifting, a task they accomplish exceedingly well.
Buckingham's fretwork, as previously mentioned, is nothing short of astonishing, and on songs such as "World Turning," "Never Going Back," and the lovely "Landslide" -- one of the concert's most fragile interludes and one of its best -- he demonstrated a remarkable dexterity that deserves all the kudos the critics have given. As Fleetwood noted during the band introductions, Buckingham is the one member of the group who literally never leaves the stage.
As for the songs themselves, it's the big band numbers that elicit the most enthusiastic response, and rightfully so. Opening number "The Chain," perhaps an unintended homage to the group's continuing trajectory, was greeted with a rapturous response, as was the well-heeled, more familiar fare like "Second Hand News," "Rhiannon," "Say You Love Me," and natch, the irrepressible "Go Your Own Way."
It's obvious that those who refer to them as the quintessential soft rock band are way off the mark. This group rocks hard, with a drive and determination that rivals any of its venerable contemporaries.
Add to that already impressive presentation an amazing array of back projected images -- ranging from magnified views of the band to scenes that look as if they were lifted from The Hobbit, to spectacular hallucinatory light displays -- and the show was a total sensory experience.
Still, it was another element that made it so special. There was the fact that the individual members -- bassist McVie excluded -- took time to expound on the band's contentious history and complicated interpersonal relationships. Likewise, the band's affection for the audience was clear.
Noting a sign that said its holder had just had a stroke and that being at the concert was on his bucket list, Nicks not only dedicated a song to him but repeatedly assured him that he would be just fine. It was a kind gesture indeed. So too, Nicks' and Fleetwood's concluding homage to the fans and expressions of appreciation for their devotion throughout the years made that final send-off especially touching. While the song "Don't Stop" implores its listeners, "Don't you look back," it's all but impossible not to feel the love that makes that exhortation all but impossible to abide by.
Personal Bias: It was the first time I'd ever seen the Mac, and it was as fulfilling as it might have been back in the day. One of the best concerts this critic has ever seen.
The Crowd: Totally enthused, wholly adoring, frequently standing, and smitten entirely.
By the Way: With a band now well into its 60s and in Christine McVie's case her 70s, there is definitive proof that age is all but meaningless as far as making music is concerned.
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I'm Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gold Dust Woman
I'm So Afraid
Go Your Own Way