Home » CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac in Philly: Good playing, songs and singing don't add up to great show

CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac in Philly: Good playing, songs and singing don't add up to great show

By John J. Moser
Lehigh Valley Music Blog
Monday, April 8, 2013 8:54:42 AM

Fleetwood Mac’s show Saturday at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center had many of the ingredients that made the band such a force of nature in the 1970s, with nine Top 20 songs and 28 million albums sold.

Lindsey Buckingham still plays head-shakingly good guitar – in fact, if anything, his playing was better than ever. Stevie Nicks still has a voice, and simply a presence, that invokes the emotions those songs carried.

And, of course, there are those songs themselves: Partially the soundtrack to the lives of many in the generally older, sold-out crowd.

But on Saturday, the parts of the 23-song, 140-minute show didn’t always add up to the whole you expect with Fleetwood Mac. And sometimes even the parts fell short of expectations.

The band, with two added multi-instrumentalists and two additional singers, started with what should have been a strong blast: After it took the stage in the dark, there was Buckingham in a spotlight, his guitar blazing to “Second Hand News,” his voice older and a bit ragged (he’s 63) but buoyed by determination.

And then ”The Chain,” its burning, bass-y riff showing off the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood’s possessed drumming and John McVie’s bass.

But neither really connected in the way the songs once did, and the third song, “Dreams,” was even farther from expectations. Nick’s voice also sounded older (she’s 64) and she was more reserved, singing in a lower range. But the night was early and it was only the second show of the tour, and the song still connected, if not as viscerally.

It was no coincidence that the band started with three songs from Rumours, its 19-times platinum 1977 album. More than 35 years later, those are the Fleetwood Mac songs that still connect best.

And the fact that second female lead singer Christine McVie is no longer in the band (she left in 1998) cut out many of the others (“Over My Head,” “Hold Me,” “Little Lies.”)

A new song, “Sad Angel,” was a mid-tempo rocker with chime-y guitar and a steady beat that Buckingham said will be on an EP set for June release that includes some of the band’s best material in a long time. And he was seemingly entranced by it, hopping around as he played.

But in truth it was nowhere near the band’s signature stuff, as even the lessor version of “Rhiannon” that followed showed. It got a big cheer to start, and Nicks, who had changed to all black, danced as she sang.

In fairness, the show got better as the night went on. “Sisters of the Moon,” a song Nicks said the band hadn’t done since the end of the 1970s, was more in her range,  and she pushed her voice, intently bending over and tugging at the mic stand as she sang.

“Sara,” found Nick’s voice floating more, hitting higher notes, as she and Buckingham glanced at each other across the stage. “Big Love,” despite the mumbo-jumbo introduction about “the importance of change” by Buckingham, who played it alone, was very good. His finger-picking was astonishing and his singing a possessed wail.

The mid-show pairing of “Landslide” and “Never Going Back Again” was a highlight of the night.

Nick and Buckingham together, alone and acoustic, on “Landslide” was nicely touching and well sung, with Nicks finally nailing high notes.

And Buckingham playing a slower, gentler “Never Going Back Again” in the same way was great – him singing with fervor and playing sympathetic guitar.

But it seemed the energy built by almost every high point in the show was diffused by an interlude of Buckingham talking about the intentionally non-commercial album “Tusk” and playing two of its songs.  (He marched around the stage as he played the title track).

Or playing the long-lost “Without You” or “Eyes of the World” or “I’m So Afraid,” none of which was  bad, but seemed to interrupt the flow generated by songs such as “Gypsy,” which also was a highlight. Everything about that song connected perfectly: Buckingham’s playing, Nick’s voice and her spinning around stage as Buckingham added a second voice.

Even the strong run that ended the show was interrupted by  the deep cut “I’m So Afraid.” While not a bad song, and again featuring Buckingham’s amazing playing (he skipped around stage as he played), it nonetheless broke the momentum that had started with “Gold Dust Woman.”

That song, nicely atmospheric, had Nicks’ turn to be possessed, waving and pantomiming as she sang to the heartbeat pound of Fleetwood behind her.

And surprisingly, it was the Nicks solo song “Stand Back” on which the band was at its best of the night. And Nick’s singing was especially strong.

The man set closed with “Go Your Own Way,” lightened to lose its sting and too ragged, but still a great song.

The encore started great, with a sharp and mean “World Turning” that included a four-minute drum solo, then “Don’t Stop,” the one Christine McVie song the band did, with Nicks singing her part. It, too, was ragged, but it’s hard to criticize such an uplifting song.

And then Fleetwood Mac closed with a simply amazing “Silver Springs.” Nicks was at her best – impassioned so much she sang with pounding fists. Buckingham’s guitar echoed with expression.

It was everything that was good about Fleetwood Mac – singing, playing and songwriting.

But Nicks and Buckingham came back for a second encore – a quiet and gentle “Say Goodbye” on just an acoustic guitar. It was OK, but it was yet another part that didn’t add up to expectations.  In this case, an extra part that didn’t quite fit into a nicely concluded show.

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