Fleetwood Mac does their best work in dramatic circumstances. They put out their finest album in the midst of personal turmoil and needed Bill Clinton to broker a reunion in 1993. As recently as last year, Mick Fleetwood proclaimed that the band wouldn't tour again because of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks' commitments to their solo careers. Yet after nearly four years of inactivity, Fleetwood Mac was back playing in the city where its formative lineup came together.
"It smells like you're having a good time out there!" Buckingham joked midway through the band's marathon 23-song, two-and-a-half hour set. And it appeared that he and his bandmates were as well. There were smiles, hugs and handholding, something that seemed hard to imagine back in the day.
In February, Buckingham hinted that the band had completed their first batch of new material since 2003's Say You Will. Late last month, Fleetwood Mac quietly released a four-song EP called Extended Play, and last night performed "Sad Angel" and "Without You." While the songs had their trademark intimate soft rock sound (with a bit of bite), it's hard to call them classics.
They played with intensity; Buckingham's solos were fiery and mystical, reaffirming his status as one of the more overlooked guitar players in rock history. Mick Fleetwood's drum solos were gutbusting, while bassist John McVie's steady proved why he remains their steady foundation.
But in the end, the band's biggest attraction is still the spellbinding Nicks, still a siren at 64. Her wardrobe these days is, of course, boho chic, although it's unlikely that a younger Nicks would have thrown on a warm coat mid-set and complained to the crowd about the chilly weather. Still, despite years of cocaine abuse and going under the knife to remove nodules on her vocal chords, her raspy, vulnerable voice sounded like it did when the band was in peak form. She twisted and twirled around the stage
The group shared personal stories about Los Angeles. Prior to a tender "Landslide," Nicks confessed that she never expected the song to be so beloved when she first penned it in 1973. Buckingham repeated his anecdote from Dave Grohl's Sound City documentary: He'd told Fleetwood if he were to join the band, his then-girlfriend to the mix as well.
Nicks and Buckingham may have initially written the songs of Rumours out of spite and anger, but last night they glanced and shot smiles at one another while trading verses. Having beaten the long odds to survive, it would be understandable if Fleetwood Mac treated these shows as a nostalgia tour. Instead, they're reinvigorated and ready to release more material.