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REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac rocks nation’s capital

Christine McVie returns to Fleetwood Mac for ‘On With the Show’ tour

British-American pop rock band Fleetwood Mac performed before a sold-out crowd Friday night at the Verizon Center on the latest leg of its “On With the Show” tour.

The group, which came into its current incarnation in 1975, was in a celebratory mood, not only for reaching a four-decade milestone but also for the return of keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie to the lineup for the first time since 1999.

“This is normally the moment when I would say, ‘Welcome, Christine,’” singer Stevie Nicks said during an early set break, “but I think it’s now safe to say, ‘She’s baaaaaack!’”

Miss McVie, 71, who for the past decade and a half enjoyed a quiet life at her home in Kent, England, was clearly joyous to be back with her old bandmates while finding her footing on a major tour. She excelled on vocals in long-dormant classics such as “Everywhere” and “Little Lies,” but the heights of “Say You LoveMe” seemed to challenge her upper register, with Miss McVie even quasi-apologizing afterward that her performance was “a bit dodgy.”

While Miss McVie’s return allowed for the dusting-off of some tunes from Fleetwood Mac’s catalog, the set list by and large featured few surprises or trips deep into the band’s oeuvre. Perennial favorites “The Chain,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Rhiannon,” “Tusk” and “Second Hand News” were sprinkled in with lesser-known gems such as “I Know I’m Not Wrong” and “Sisters of the Moon.”

Band members frequently paused to share stories with the audience. Miss Nicks related an anecdote about being a young woman window shopping at a San Francisco boutique called Velvet Underground that was frequented by the likes of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. This experience, she said, informed the lyrics of the song “Gypsy,” which includes the line “So I’m back to the velvet underground, back to the floor that I love.”

Miss Nicks, 66, later related how she had been vacationing in Italy when she received a call from “Chris” asking whether she might rejoin the band — this after some guest spots in England last year in which Miss McVie played keyboards and sang on a few songs. Even after so many years without Miss McVie, Miss Nicks maintained that there was never any question she should return to the group full time.

“She’s never allowed to leave again,” Miss Nicks said of her bandmate, which generated thunderous applause.

Friday’s high-energy, three-hour spectacle seemed overwrought at times, testing the crowd’s stamina and interest with overly long stories and somewhat somnambulant mini-sets by the band. However, this was more than counterbalanced by the carefully programmed overall set, with each of the members taking turns at center stage.

Lead guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham continues to shred and scream for the rafters with the energy of a teenager, never letting on that, at 65, he is officially a senior citizen.

In addition to his electric riffs, Mr. Buckingham also played solo acoustic guitar — with no less vocal gusto — on “Big Love” and “Never Going Back Again,” before being joined by Miss Nicks for the elegiac ballad “Landslide,” which she said was her late father’s favorite among her songs.

As is true of pretty much any Fleetwood Mac show, the spiritual climax was undoubtedly the late-set performance of “I’m Still Afraid,” a bluesy, at times mournful, impassioned tune that begins quietly, with Mr. Buckingham singing two verses, before the song evolves into a nearly 10-minute jam session, with Mr. Buckingham assaulting his instrument with ever-brisker finger work and rock ‘n’ roll showmanship accompanied by drummer Mick Fleetwood’s pounding percussion. The crowd roared to its feet at the song’s conclusion, appreciative of the sweating fervor of Mr. Buckingham’s musicianship, which has earned him a reputation as one of the best living rock guitarists.

The set closed with Fleetwood Mac’s arguably most popular tune, “Go Your Own Way,” a hit from the smash album “Rumours” that was written amid the divorce of Miss McVie and bassist John McVie and the simultaneous romantic breakup of Mr. Buckingham and Miss Nicks. The up-tempo song, laced with pain, brought the 20,000 fans to their feet — a testament to the band members’ talents and the universality of their themes.

The encore began with percussionist Mick Fleetwood rendering a spirited drum solo, then featured “World Turning” followed by “Don’t Stop” — famously used as the theme song to Bill Clinton’s 1992 Democratic presidential nomination convention — and Miss Nicks on vocals on “Silver Springs” (perhaps in nod to the D.C. suburb).

Surprisingly, Miss McVie and Mr. Buckingham returned for a second encore, this time performing the angelic and melodious “Songbird” from “Rumours,” with Miss McVie singing and playing a Steinway as Mr. Buckingham accompanied on guitar.

The goodnight was a lengthy affair, with somewhat long-winded thank-you speeches from Miss Nicks and Mr. Fleetwood, 67, one of the band’s original members along with fellow Briton Mr. McVie, 69.

“Love,” Mr. Fleetwood said as he took his final bow. “In this crazy world of ours, be kind to each other. And love.”

Despite inner strife, breakups, feuds and member leave-takings that threatened to derail one of rock’s greatest acts, Fleetwood Mac proves that the love of music, and of those with whom we make it, has the power to unite and heal.

Eric Althoff / Washington Times / Monday, February 2, 2015

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