Classic rock band in transition
By Lynn Saxberg
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
OTTAWA — The Fleetwood Mac that touched down at Scotiabank Place on Tuesday appeared to be a band in transition, turning in a slightly uneven performance for a crowd of about 12,400.
The 2013 version of the 1970s hitmakers still counts guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and singer Stevie Nicks in its lineup, but no longer includes singer-keyboardist Christine McVie, who has refused all invitations to join her old bandmates.
Of course, that’s nothing new, and the band has been soldiering on without her for years. On this tour, a keyboardist, extra guitarist and two backing vocalists help fill in the sound, leaving Nicks and Buckingham co-fronting the classic rock outfit.
With their voices in sync, the former sweethearts presented a united front during the first song, knocking out a terrific version of “Second Hand News.”
The lovely twang of Buckingham’s guitar led into a muscular version of another old favourite, “The Chain,” to the delight of the audience.
It was Nicks who greeted the crowd first, remarking on how beautiful Ottawa was, with its “rivers and castles.” But after issuing a call to get the party started, the 64-year-old, who still wears her hair long and blond, seemed to struggle to find her groove on “Dreams.” Maybe it was an off night, but in it, and her signature song, “Rhiannon,” her voice had a harsh edge, lacking much of the fluidity of the early days.
When Buckingham, who’s 63, took his turn at the microphone, he shared the news that the band had been working on new material, and an EP is being released soon. One of those new songs, the upbeat “Sad Angel,” was played early in the show, indicating a crisper form of melodic rock to come from the soft-rock survivors, a style perhaps better suited to Nicks’ not-so-lush voice.
Buckingham, who played a solo show at the Ottawa Folk Festival last summer, also talked about the 1979 album, Tusk, describing it as a line in the sand between him and the record company, who would have preferred another blockbuster like 1977’s Rumours. Digging into a couple of tracks from the album, he showed how well the music has held up.
Leave it to Buckingham to forge ahead creatively back then, and to push the band in new directions now. Looking fit and tanned in jeans and leather jacket, the guitarist was the band’s guiding light throughout the show, while Nicks, draped in something fringed and sparkly, had to work to match his energy and recreate her old magic.
But everything clicked during the encore. With Buckingham as the guitar hero, Nicks as the rock goddess and Fleetwood bashing out a thunderous drum solo, the band finally sounded reunited as they tore through “World Turning” and “Don’t Stop.”