Christine McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac on Monday at Madison Square Garden. (Photo: Chad Batka)
Home » REVIEW: Christine McVie rejoins Fleetwood Mac at the Garden

REVIEW: Christine McVie rejoins Fleetwood Mac at the Garden

A band member returns to the fold, and camaraderie and nostalgia ensue

From left, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham perform at Madison Square Garden. (Photo: Chad Batka)
From left, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham perform at Madison Square Garden. (Photo: Chad Batka)

“Welcome back, Chris!” Stevie Nicks proclaimed soon after Fleetwood Mac started its set on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. “Where have you been?”

“Long story, Stevie,” said the laconic Christine McVie from behind her keyboards. In 1998, after 28 years with Fleetwood Mac, Ms. McVie retired from touring with the band.

But in January, as Ms. Nicks told it in a post-encore monologue, Ms. McVie phoned to ask, “How would you feel if I decided to come back to the band?” (She had already made a guest appearance in September 2013 at a Fleetwood Mac concert in London.) Ms. Nicks added that she advised Ms. McVie to get a trainer because Fleetwood Mac’s shows are so “physical”; its concert set runs 2 ½ hours. And while Ms. McVie’s voice, like the others in the band, has roughened over the decades, it’s still hearty.

With Ms. McVie, Fleetwood Mac has returned to the lineup that made it the world’s best-selling band 37 years ago when it released Rumours, an album of sparkling pop-rock songs about, mostly, crumbling relationships. Ms. McVie was the more levelheaded, kindly voice alongside the band’s other two songwriters: Ms. Nicks — sometimes dreamy, sometimes vindictive — and the guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who tucked angry, wounded lyrics into virtuosic guitar parts.

Ms. McVie’s demure alto bound together the group’s vocal harmonies; her songs promised that loyal affection was still possible. The three singers and songwriters were backed by the band’s namesakes and tireless rhythm section, the drummer Mick Fleetwood and the bassist John McVie, Christine’s ex-husband since 1977.

Ms. McVie wrote the determinedly optimistic, forward-looking “Don’t Stop,” which insists “yesterday’s gone.” But to the delight of a nostalgic audience on Monday, the band drew its entire set from the five albums this lineup made together: Fleetwood Mac (1975), Rumours (1977), Tusk (1979), Mirage (1982) and Tango in the Night (1987). There was camaraderie onstage; when Ms. McVie sang “Say You Love Me,” Ms. Nicks was singing along without a microphone, like a fan who knew all the words.

Fleetwood Mac can’t duplicate its youthful sweetness. Ms. McVie’s voice has held its richness, but sometimes falters at high notes. Ms. Nicks’s huskiness has grown harsher, and in her glittery shawls she turns slowly now instead of twirling across the stage. But Fleetwood Mac still has the intricacy, elegance and underlying punch of its songs.

Mr. Buckingham is clearly the band’s leader now. The guitar parts that twinkle through Fleetwood Mac’s albums — patterns of picking and strumming that meld folk styles with classical guitar detail — come into the foreground onstage. He turned Ms. Nicks’s “Gold Dust Woman” into a darker incantation before taking a long, skirling, keening solo in his own “I’m So Afraid”; “Tusk” was a cry of despair, not a novelty.

But Ms. McVie was the band’s quieter center of attention, and she had the last word with her “Songbird.” Even though she played it largely alone on piano, with a modest guitar solo from Mr. Buckingham, it meant that Fleetwood Mac was complete again.

Fleetwood Mac performs at the Prudential Center on Saturday, 165 Mulberry Street, Newark; 800-745-3000, prucenter.com.

Jon Pareles / New York Times / Tuesday, October 7, 2014

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