Fleetwood Mac’s reunion with Christine McVie at the beginning of their European tour is another regeneration for this musical soap opera, says Bernadette McNulty.
For a band that have had more than their share of “not before hell freezes over” moments, the news that Christine McVie would be reuniting with Fleetwood Mac on stage in London for two nights this week has still managed to raise eyebrows. Only last year Stevie Nicks declared that there was little chance of the Brummie songwriter returning after she walked out 15 years ago.
Admittedly, as reunions go it’s fairly perfunctory. McVie won’t accompany the tour beyond London, apparently down to her fear of flying, and she will only join her former band mates on stage for one song. That the number will be Go Your Own Way, however, does sound like the band at least have a sense of humour.
This, of course, is just another plot twist in the life of a band that has regenerated itself as often as a Time Lord. While they are most often portrayed as a baby boomer soap opera in two acts — the respected but struggling British blues combo of the Sixties who merged with the American couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in the early Seventies to become multi-million selling soft-rock behemoths — the mutation of the band has been constant. Fleetwood Mac were a band born out of a splintering from the Bluesbreakers, and they continued to fuse and split with a kind of nuclear energy throughout the next four decades.
That they were strongly rumoured to be headlining both Coachella and Glastonbury festivals this year — and have been already mooted for the lineup next year — also reveals their cache with a younger generation raised on T4 and YouTube rather than The Old Grey Whistle Test. The likes of Florence and the Machine and Haim routinely channel their tousled-haired heroine Stevie Nicks’s raw-throated holler and Buckingham and McVie’s folk rock harmonies. Even more astoundingly, the 35th anniversary reissue of their album Rumours went back into the UK charts this February at number three.
To the punks and electro kids who rode rough shod over the soft rock dinosaurs of the Seventies, Fleetwood Mac epitomised all that was wrong with music — coke-addled guitar solos and lyrical nonsense from fake hippy rich kids reeking of pachouli oil. But to successive generations the glamour, grit and seduction of their classic pop has emerged as a much stronger influence.
This would undoubtedly please the band, who under Buckingham’s technical ambition had their sights set on being as innovative and harmonically complex as the Beatles and the Beach Boys. But the studio sheen they perfected was only made transcendent by that very punk emotion of anger, reaching its zenith with the rock operatic, warring-couples maelstrom of Rumours.
Other bands might find performing songs from one of the most painful personal periods of their life tortuous, but Fleetwood Mac seem to wear their baroque musical battle scars with increasing pride.
Set lists from the US leg of the tour show the band playing the lion’s share of Rumours with smatterings from Tusk, Fleetwood Mac and only one, Big Love, from their 1987 album Tango in the Night. It’s a recipe that should please the generations but sadly skirts over the depths of their back catalogue, particularly from their earlier incarnations, and the mercurial brilliance of Peter Green and Danny Kirwan. Hell would really have to see a temperature drop to see either of those two rejoin the team but with Fleetwood Mac, the skeletons in the cupboard often sing as loud as the survivors on stage.
Fleetwood Mac play the O2 London Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, then touring. See fleetwoodmac.com
Bernadette McNulty / The Telegraph (UK) / Thursday, September 19, 2013