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LIVE: Rocking in the Free World

(Kevin Mazur/Wire Image)
(Kevin Mazur/Wire Image)

Fleetwood Mac

Madison Square Garden, New York, April 8, 2013

The stadium-sized psychodrama begins once again. “This war is pretty good!”

Upon seeing Fleetwood Mac perform, one cannot help but ponder the lot of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Their romance ended the better part of four decades ago, yet the two of them are chained together seemingly for eternity in a sort of Sisyphean nightmare, forced to rehash in front of thousands of people night after night the recriminations that fuelled the blockbuster success of 1977’s Rumors (which has sold 19 million copies in the US alone).

Of course, “forced” is hardly the right word – after all, they choose to open up their wounds for all to see and do so to their great financial benefit – but, despite the apparent bonhomie on display, the energy that Fleetwood Mac exudes is weird. The choreographed moments tonight, like their slow dance twirl at the end of “Sara,” or Nicks’ declaration to Buckingham that “this war is pretty good” during the introduction to “Landslide,” do little to camouflage it.

On record, of course, this kind of misdirection has long been the ace up Fleetwood Mac’s billowing sleeves. Rumours didn’t go mega-platinum merely because of the intra-band soap opera that played out in the lyrics, but rather because of the tension between that acrimony and the exquisitely produced Southern California soft rock, giving just a hint of bluesy edge to the pretty melodies. Tonight, though, worn by age and scuffed up by a cavernous arena (and without the breezy vocals and, for the most part, the more optimistic songs of Christine McVie, who retired from performing with the band in 1998) the edges of the songs are torn and tattered. Time has taken its toll on Nicks and Buckingham’s voices, Mick Fleetwood’s drums are front and centre and more aggressive than on record, and Buckingham plays his guitar with more attack and rhythmic drive.

CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac rock Madison Square Garden

While Nicks still has the whiskey-and-cigarettes timbre, the high notes and much of the tremolo that characterizes one of the most distinctive voices in rock are gone; she noticeably struggles with “Rhiannon.” But other songs’ coarser edges – “Sisters of the Moon,” with its fiery guitar leads, and the more atmospheric, Ry Cooder-ish fills of “Gold Dust Woman” – provide cover for her vocal limitations, and her less fluttery reading of “Gypsy” lends it more poignancy.

The songs may have slightly new skin, but nostalgia is still the order of the day. Nicks is adorned in one of her characteristic Morgane Le Fey dresses and playing a tambourine festooned in ribbons, Fleetwood sports jodhpurs a la the Rumours sleeve, and all but three of the songs pre-date 1984. Introducing “Without You,” a ballad bearing more than a passing similarity to “Peace Train” that was recorded by Buckingham Nicks as a demo in the early ‘70s and recently discovered by them on YouTube, Nicks says that she wrote it, “when they were really young and beautiful and in love.” There is no escaping the original music’s healthy, youthful glow; the Pacific sunsets gleaming in the expatriates’ eyes; the Californian natives’ effortless melding of ocean breeze and desert heat. Despite the leaner, tighter arrangements, the songs now show some middle-age paunch.

Tanned and toned and with the top button of his shirt undone, Buckingham whoops and hollers, as ever a little too eager to please as a live performer. While he refreshingly evades the traditional male rock star moulds, he is of a piece with fellow soft-rock icons like Jackson Browne and James Taylor, guys who, if they were born five years earlier, would have been lawyers and seem hellbent to prove how smart they are. His between-song patter is peppered with phrases like “we as a band had to subvert that axiom” and “it bears repeating,” transforming a crowd of some 18,000 middle-aged men and women into fidgety pre-teens.

CONCERT REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac unveils new side at Madison Square Garden

As his exegesis of his songs indicates, Buckingham is a notorious control freak – he spent a then-unheard-of $1 million painstakingly trying to perfect the follow-up to Rumours, Tusk, widely regarded as rock’s version of Heaven’s Gate upon release. Although its reputation has been rehabilitated over the ensuing years, Buckingham still seems defensive about this quixotic curio, as he introduces a four-song selection from the album. Apart from the awkward, nervous energy of the punk-inspired “Not That Funny,” the section proves the show’s highlight. Nicks is at her best on “Sisters of the Moon,” a song the band hasn’t performed since 1979 (Editor’s note: Fleetwood Mac last performed “Sisters of the Moon” in concert during its 1982 Mirage tour), as well as the album’s most enduring track, “Sara.” In the past, the group have performed the title track in a stripped-down version, shorn of its marching band bombast. Tonight, however, the horns are front and centre on a tape loop, Fleetwood is augmented by a second drummer hidden behind the stack of amps, and the original introductory verse is reinstated, making plain the song’s paranoia. Filling Madison Square Garden with noise and rhythm and unstoppable forward momentum, “Tusk” truly brings the house down.

3RD SHOW: Fleetwood Mac, Madison Square Garden, New York City, April 8, 2013 (videos)

While the studio is the natural element for Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac have an undeniable command of live dynamics and are forbiddingly tight as a unit – there is not a note or movement or even a breath that seems out of place. You could say that they’re resolutely professional, but then some seemingly genuine affection between Buckingham and Nicks creeps through the carefully managed stagecraft. During their intimate duet on “Say Goodbye” (from 2003’s Say You Will) that closes the show, there’s even a sense that their bond might be one of true commitment, rather than bridled burden.

Setlist

  1. Second Hand News
  2. The Chain
  3. Dreams
  4. Sad Angel
  5. Rhiannon
  6. Not That Funny
  7. Tusk
  8. Sisters of the Moon
  9. Sara
  10. Big Love
  11. Landslide
  12. Never Going Back Again
  13. Without You
  14. Gypsy
  15. Eyes of the World
  16. Gold Dust Woman
  17. I’m So Afraid
  18. Stand Back
  19. Go Your Own Way
  20. World Turning (first encore)
  21. Don’t Stop
  22. Silver Springs (second encore)
  23. Say Goodbye

Peter Shapiro / Uncut / June 2013

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LIVE IN CONCERT (2023-2024)

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FEB 10, 2024
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Atlantic City, NJ

FEB 14, 2024
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FEB 17, 2024
CFG Bank Arena
Baltimore, MD

FEB 21, 2024
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FEB 24, 2024
Hard Rock Live
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FEB 28, 2024
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New Orleans, LA
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MAR 3, 2024
CHI Health Center
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MAY 3, 2024 – MAY 5, 2024
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Previous 2023 dates

March 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Los Angeles, CA
SoFi Stadium

March 15, 2023
Seattle, WA
Climate Pledge Arena

March 18, 2023
Las Vegas, NV
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May 12, 2023
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May 16, 2023
Knoxville, TN
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May 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium

May 22, 2023
Atlanta, GA
State Farm Arena

May 25, 2023
Orlando, FL
Amway Center

June 16, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field

June 20, 2023
Toronto, ON (Canada)
Scotiabank Arena

June 23, 2023
Chicago, IL
United Center

June 27, 2023
Louisville, KY
KFC Yum! Center

August 5, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Columbus, OH
Ohio Stadium

August 8, 2023
Milwaukee, WI
Fiserv Forum

August 12, 2023
Houston, TX
Toyota Center

August 15, 2023
Austin, TX
Moody Center

August 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
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September 23, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Foxborough, MA
Gillette Stadium

September 27, 2023
Pittsburgh, PA
PPG Paints Arena

October 1, 2023
New York, NY
Madison Square Garden

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Buffalo, NY
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October 28, 2023
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November 1, 2023
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November 4, 2023
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November 29, 2023
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Inglewood, CA
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December 12, 2023
Sacramento, CA
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December 15, 2023
San Francisco, CA
Chase Center



2022 Tour

Stevie Nicks

Jazz Aspen Snowmass
Snowmass, CO
Labor Day 2022

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park, IL
September 8, 2022
September 10, 2022

Pine Knob Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI
September 13, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sea Hear Now Festival
Asbury, NJ
September 17, 2022

Xfinity Center
Mansfield, MA
September 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Maine Savings Amphitheatre
Bangor, ME
September 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sound on Sound Festival
Bridgeport, CT
September 24-25, 2022

Ohana Festival
Dana Point, CA
September 30, 2022

Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, CA
October 3, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

POSTPONED
Ak-Chin Pavilion

Phoenix, AZ
October 6, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

POSTPONED
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The Woodlands, TX
October 9, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Alpharetta, GA
October 12, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ascend Amphitheater
Nashville, TN
October 16, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Credit One Stadium
Charleston, SC
October 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

PNC Music Pavilion
Charlotte, NC
October 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Tampa, FL
October 25, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre
West Palm Beach, FL
October 28, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Orion Amphitheatre
Huntsville, AL
October 31, 2022

RESCHEDULED SHOWS

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, TX
November 2, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion
Phoenix, AZ
November 5, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton