By Jim Beal Jr.
San Antonio Express-News
Friday, October 3, 2003
Lots of bands change. Few have changed as much as Fleetwood Mac. But few bands, especially rock bands, manage to stick it out for 36 years.
Since drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie joined forces in London in 1967 to play the blues with guitarists Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan, there have been several distinct, and distinctive, Fleetwood Macs. There’s the British blues band, the early ’70s quirky rock band, the mid-to-late-’70s pop/rock superstars, the mid-’80s “let’s all make solo albums” pop/rockers, the ’93 Bill Clinton presidential inauguration Fleetwood Mac, the mid-’90s Bekka Bramlett/Dave Mason/Billy Burnette band and, in 2003, the reunion of the pop/rock superstar band sans keyboardist/songwriter Christine McVie.
“I see them as separate bands, really,” Fleetwood said from a tour stop. “But John and myself are different from anyone else because we’ve been there from the beginning in 1967, just making our way through.
“The major innovations are fairly defined. When we started we were a blues band. The band we have now began with the advent of Christine though Christine has decided not to make this journey.”
The current Fleetwood Mac journey, a long tour supporting the release of the “Say You Will” CD, will stop Sunday at the SBC Center. Showtime is listed as 8 p.m.
“The band on the road now is the major part of Fleetwood Mac history,” Fleetwood said. “The band has been, on and off, together for 30 years. The changes came more often in the early days. It’s all part of an unusual story, a fairly fascinating road.
“We welcomed the people who came in with their talent. We never wanted to be what we were before. Our road has been about bringing people in who are talented and who had their own story to tell; songwriters, which me and John are not.”
The band on the road is Fleetwood and John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham (guitar, vocals, songwriter) and Stevie Nicks (vocals, songwriter). That quartet is augmented in concert by backing vocalists Sharon Celani and Mindy Stein, keyboard player Brett Tuggle, guitarists Neale Heywood and Carlos Rios and percussionist Taku Hirano. Most of the support players and singers have done a considerable amount of road and/or studio work with the band members.
“With Stevie, Lindsey, John and myself, we’re blessed with an extreme amount of material,” Fleetwood said. “With Christine deciding not to be part of this chapter, it brought Stevie and Lindsey together in a different way. We are now in a new phase of Fleetwood Mac. And Lindsey’s production work has allowed him more freedom.”
Fleetwood has been in the rock business long enough to know that the new phase and the old phase(s) must merge onstage.
The live show set was chosen “with some difficulty,” Fleetwood said with a laugh.
“We had two months of rehearsal,” he said. “What we did was not necessarily the most efficient way but we over-rehearsed as if we were going in the studio so we didn’t make any mistakes. We were so gung ho about presenting new songs that, in 21/2 hours of music, we found we weren’t being fair because we put in too much material people didn’t know. People like Fleetwood Mac but we want them to have a great time so we cut back but still pushed the envelope on the new songs. We hope the concert is a good representation. It seems to be from the fan reaction.”
In today’s music business/playlist climate, a band that stays together for almost four decades and scores smash hits along the way ends up competing with its old hits when a new disc is released.
“It’s just the nature of the beast and I don’t think it’s a happy story,” Fleetwood said. “The days are past for deejays to express themselves through what they choose to play. That’s suffocating new talent and doing the music a disservice.
“We’re blessed that a certain amount of our fan base knows we have a new album out. But it’s really farcical in a way. You can do some TV advertising, and that helps. But gone are the days when a deejay had the (nerve) to play five new songs off an Eric Clapton album. It’s hurting the music business and it’s coming back to bite the business in its rear end. The business might recover. It might not. But what can you do?”
What Fleetwood Mac did was make as good a record as it could.
“We made an album that’s worth a damn,” Fleetwood said. “Don’t think for one moment we’ve run out of gas. We’re prepared to work very, very hard on the road. We’ll be on the road for the better part of two years with this album.”