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Say, they reunited

Fleetwood Mac is mostly back for ‘Say You Will‘ tour

By Chris Macias
The Sacramento Bee
July 4, 2003

Change is one of the few constants for Fleetwood Mac. The band was founded in Great Britain by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie in the late 1960s as a blues-rock outfit. The two have remained in the band ever since, but Fleetwood Mac’s story is filled with constantly rotating lineups and a few switch-ups in sound.

The band ditched its blues-rock repertoire and relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. With its new pop-rock leanings, Fleetwood Mac settled on a roster that featured singer-pianist Christine Perfect (who became Christine McVie after marrying the band’s bassist), singer Stevie Nicks and singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.

This is the Fleetwood Mac that most folks know, the group that sold a gazillion copies of 1977’s “Rumours,” and typified rock’s balmy “California sound” with such hits as “Rhiannon” and “Landslide.” This is also the lineup that performs on Sunday at Arco Arena.

Well, not quite. Christine McVie left Fleetwood Mac in 1997 following the group’s “The Dance” tour, an outing that reunited the band’s most popular configuration. (Buckingham left the group in 1987; while Nicks and McVie would also split and go their own way in 1990.)

But for all intents and purposes, Fleetwood Mac is back.

“(‘The Dance’) was a signpost that this could all work again without being so emotionally taxing,” said Fleetwood, in a phone interview from Chicago. “It was a very happy tour and very successful. The only sad bit after the fact was that Christine just doesn’t enjoy traveling anymore. But that tour gave us comfort, and from that moment on, there was always a Fleetwood Mac. It just took awhile to get to where we are now.”

Nicks, Fleetwood, John McVie and Buckingham are touring behind “Say You Will,” the band’s first studio album since 1990’s “Behind the Mask,” and Buckingham’s first recordings with the band since 1987’s “Tango in the Night.” The record, full of Buckingham’s guitar workouts and grandiose production, recalls the eclectic spirit of 1979’s “Tusk,” but is smoothed out with Nicks’ ballads and sunny harmonies.

“You’ve really got the stylings of John and myself and Lindsey, which we jokingly call the power trio,” said Fleetwood. “It’s a bit more rocking and rolling, probably. Basically, we made a double album like we did in the old days. We had 27 songs, which we cut down to 18 songs. That’s a lot of information, and in some ways is a risk, but you hope you hold people’s attention. I found that people are growing into the album. They’re thrown for a loop here and there.”

But what’s Fleetwood Mac without a little topsy-turvyness? The group is astute in turning turmoil into triumph, channelling its collective woes from inter-band divorce (the McVies) and crumbling relationships (Nicks and Buckingham) into selling 18 million “Rumours” albums.

“Say You Will” wasn’t without its own conflicts. Establishing the final cut of songs provided some tense moments. Yet overall, Fleetwood Mac circa 2003 is much mellower than during its high-strung days in the 1970s.

“(During the making of ‘Say You Will’) I remember Lindsey one day turned around to Stevie and said, ‘I’ve been looking at some of the words on this song, and if you cut some of these words out, I think the melody would work better,’ ” Fleetwood recalled. “And vroom! Stevie said, ‘I’m not changing my words!’ because she’s a poet, and that’s that.

“We’re not without hitting a couple of little brick walls here and there, saying, ‘I don’t agree,’ ” Fleetwood continued. “In this day and age, it’s just handled differently. In those days we were in altered states usually, and these days we’re not. Now, the next day you come back in studio and say, ‘What are we going to do about this?’ I think that’s what makes this band alive. Those sparks are all still there. Otherwise, we’d be flatlined.”

The pieces just seem to fall in place for Fleetwood Mac. “Say You Will” grew from recordings that were intended for a solo effort by Buckingham. McVie and Fleetwood were recruited as sidemen. Nicks, meanwhile, was off touring in support of her own solo album, “Trouble in Shangri-La.”

Still, an invitation was extended to Nicks to join in, and after she submitted some of her own songs, everyone decided to simply join forces as Fleetwood Mac.

Fleetwood Mac’s rekindled energy churns through “Say You Will,” especially in such tunes as “Come” and “Running Through the Garden.” There’s a temptation for the band to showcase plenty of new songs in concert to prove Fleetwood Mac’s staying power. Still, the current tour is primarily a greatest-hits show.

“We rehearsed 10 new songs, and it’s way too much,” said Fleetwood. “The people just don’t know them. An excursion into the album was just not appropriate, but we hope as the tour progresses that we’ll drop in a couple (of new songs). We’ve come up with a really good balance for us, where we’re pushing the envelope here and there, but also really respecting the fact that you’re there to entertain the audience.

“From memory, one would never do more than two or three new songs,” Fleetwood continued. “Years ago when we’d made ‘Rumours,’ we had come off of ‘Fleetwod Mac,’ which was a pretty big success. We pretty much played (‘Rumours’) from head to toe at a big festival, and we died a death. They didn’t know one of the songs, and we didn’t do that again.”

With Fleetwood Mac intact, there may even be another new album down the road. It might not even take 12 years to release it, either. After all, there are plenty of songs left over from the “Say You Will” sessions. But as most things go with Fleetwood Mac, we’ll just have to wait and see how this saga unfolds.

“Everyone’s up for the possibility of that happening,” said Fleetwood about a new album. “I only preface it by saying that we’re 18 months away (from the end of touring), and one of us might turn around and say, ‘I’m just totally burned out and the thought of starting a new album might be too much for me.’ But right now, it’s definitely being spoken about.”

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