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Fleetwood Mac is back, strong as ever

By Dan Nailen
Salt Lake Tribune
Friday, August 1, 2003

You would think a band with so much history — three decades of breakups, makeups, triumphs and tragedies — would be too familiar to still inspire each other.

Not so with Fleetwood Mac, the 1998 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees who evolved from a British blues band into the consummate California rock band, producing one of the best-selling records of all time with 1977’s “Rumours.”

Joining forces to record together for the first time since 1987, Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood holed up in California in the summer of 2001 — minus longtime keyboardist Christine McVie — to follow up the group’s successful 1997 comeback tour with an album of new material. While the boys worked through a slew of Buckingham songs and a CD of demos Nicks wrote on her own in Phoenix, she hit the road in support of her solo “Trouble in Shangri-la” album.

Nicks’ tour was in New York City on 9-11 and she was stuck for three days until catching a bus to Atlantic City. But she stayed on the road because friends like Don Henley and Tom Petty told her, “people need music right now, and if they’re willing to leave the house and get in their car and come see you, don’t you dare come home.” When she finished that emotional tour in December of 2001, she called her bandmates and asked for 30 days to write some new songs reflecting the experiences she had across America post-9-11. When the month was up, she got on a plane, met her fellow Fleetwood Macs in California and presented the results.

“I was a little terrified,” Nicks said in an interview about giving those raw tracks to the band. “I walked in the house, gave Lindsay the cassette, and we played ‘Destiny Rules’ first, ‘Silver Girl’ second, ‘Illumé’ third, then ‘Say You Will,’ and of course, I burst into tears when we were playing the demo. And Lindsay, his eyes welled up with tears and he put his hand on my knee and said, ‘How do you do that?’ And I knew that I was OK. I knew I was in the ballgame at that point.”

Nicks was more than “in the ballgame.” “Say You Will” became the title of Fleetwood Mac’s new album, a strong 18-song collection split evenly between Buckingham and Nicks compositions. “Say You Will” has all the trademarks that made Fleetwood Mac explode into one of rock’s biggest acts: a rock-solid rhythm section with McVie and Fleetwood, Buckingham’s tasty guitar work and the dueling vocals of Buckingham and Nicks. Christine McVie’s voice is missed, but the album stands up with the band’s stronger work from the 1970s and ’80s.

Considering Buckingham left the Fleetwood Mac fold after 1987’s “Tango in the Night,” “Say You Will” is remarkably cohesive, and once the four remaining members decided to work on new music together again, the songs came quickly. Buckingham had about 15 songs already written, and Nicks brought 17 songs, some written as far back as 1976. New songs came as they worked, notably Nicks’ post-9-11 tunes, and the band was close to releasing a double-album. Buckingham was pushing for it, but the others fought and eventually prevailed.

“We finally, as a group, decided that with the music market as it is, and the fact that we would, as Fleetwood Mac, be put up against Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake and on and on, that maybe the double-album wasn’t such a good idea,” Nicks said.

“It’s still a lot of music. It’s a lot of commitment to sit down and listen to this record. What I felt was that hopefully . . . there would be a universal message for everybody somewhere in this record.”

Nicks’ post-9-11 songs are among the best on the album, with the most subtle of nods to the tragic events of that day captured in her lyrics, except for “Illumé,” the most-direct of the songs.

“As a writer, it was really important to me to say something about what I’d been through in the past year,” Nicks said. “Because [Buckingham, McVie and Fleetwood] hadn’t been through it. They were safe and sound in the house in Bel Air, and I was all over the country, walking out onstage with audiences bursting into tears. I needed, as a writer, to talk about it, even though it’s really subtle in those four songs.”

Describing the band’s current tour, the 55-year-old Nicks sounds virtually giddy. She said it’s the kind of show to make someone feel young again, and it certainly seems to be working for her. So far, the band has played about 35 shows, after rehearsing for three months, and things are clicking.

“You guys in Salt Lake are going to get this at the very best time, because we are so rehearsed now, and we know the show so well, that when we walk onstage, we are free to just perform,” Nicks said. “I’m not worried about forgetting the words. I’m not worried about walking backwards into John’s amp. I’m not worried about anything. When I walk onstage, I’m actually free to sing and dance and just have a great time.”

The Salt Lake show Saturday has an added benefit for Nicks, who lived in Holladay when she was in junior high. She still has friends here, not to mention fond memories of the “only place I ever lived that has snow.”

“When my dad came home and said, ‘Pack up, we’re moving to Los Angeles,’ I was horrified,” Nicks said. “So I’m always happy to come back to Salt Lake.” Fleetwood Mac plays Salt Lake City’s Delta Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $29.50 to $125, and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.

* Fleetwood Mac plays Salt Lake City’s Delta Center on Saturday at 8 p.m.

* Tickets range from $29.50 to $125, and are available at all Ticketmaster outlets.



Stevie Nicks

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^ Non-Live Nation show