Finally, 16 years after playing her last gig with Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie is back in the band.
Hard to tell who seemed happier for her return, the fans or the band members. Drummer Mick Fleetwood said in a pre-concert interview with the Miami Herald that this enduring band’s autobiographical music has served as a soundtrack for its audience’s own similar experiences. Love, loss, joy, heartache.
“It’s astoundingly powerful that for the vast majority of that audience their lives are unfolding in their own world and we’re triggering that.”
These fans have made the superstar group’s On With the Show Tour one of the year’s top touring attractions. At Sunrise’s sold-out BB&T Center Friday night, a crowd of 16,000 or so lustily cheered reinvigorated classics like Rhiannon, Go Your Own Way and Landslide.
Immediately after the standard Fleetwood Mac opener, The Chain, fans got their first taste of McVie’s burgundy warm, bluesy alto, which, reassuringly, sounds much as it did on Rumours 38 years ago. “Sweet, wonderful you/You make me happy with the things you do,” she sang in the opening line of You Make Loving Fun, the fourth Top 10 single from the landmark Rumours album. Back then, the song was about her lover, the band’s former lighting director, whom she briefly turned to as her marriage to bass player John McVie ended. Now, the lyric seems directed at her fellow musicians, including her ex, as well as the fans.
“Usually I’d say, ‘Welcome back, Christine,’” a genuinely friendly, chatty Stevie Nicks said, referring to her previous stage patter early in the tour’s run. “But since this is the 39th show, we can safely say, ‘She’s back!’’’
Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, Nicks’ ex and the subject of many of her songs like Dreams and Silver Springs — much as she is the subject of his biting numbers, Go Your Own Way, Never Going Back Again and Second Hand News — has always had a particularly symbiotic musical relationship with McVie. The chemistry in the way their voices intertwine — McVie’s out of British blues, Buckingham’s inspired by ’50s folk — on the blues-rock stomp of World Turning and the rock shuffle, Don’t Stop, proved intact.
A couple hours earlier, just after McVie’s power pop charmer, Everywhere, and his own edgy rocker, I Know I’m Not Wrong, Buckingham delivered Fleetwood Mac’s State of the Union. He singled out McVie for providing a reason to think about tomorrow.
“With her return I believe we begin a profound, poetic and prolific new chapter in the life of this band,” Buckingham said. Encouraging, and inspiring, given he’s 65, McVie’s 71, Nicks is 66 and the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are 67 and 69, respectively. Given how well these men and women performed, for nearly three hours, you fully believe Buckingham.
Indeed, McVie’s contribution is the necessary sunlight amid Nicks’ and Buckingham’s darker ruminations. This additional voice made the harmonies on her Say You Love Me, Over My Head and Little Lies, the latter done with considerably more edge and kick than its stuck-in-the-’80s studio version, as well as Nicks’ Dreams and Rhiannon, ring with clarity. She also seemed to have inspired the others to deliver the best vocal performances we’ve heard from anyone in this outfit since the Reagan administration.
Sure, Nicks has lost her top range on Dreams and Sisters of the Moon. Buckingham’s voice is deeper.
But Nicks sang full-bodied and in-tune throughout, including on her showcase Gold Dust Woman and Seven Wonders, reintroduced thanks to its prominent use last season for Nicks’ witch character on FX’s American Horror Story: Coven. She dedicated Landslide to a fan who held a sign that said she’d had a stroke and that her bucket list wish was to see a Fleetwood Mac concert. Nicks responded, “I feel it in my heart. You’re going to be just fine.”
Buckingham had a regained suppleness and adventure in his phrasing that gave fresh nuance to Never Going Back Again, Big Love and the anguished I’m So Afraid. His inventive lead guitar playing, Flamenco style on Big Love; blues on I’m So Afraid; or classic rock soloing on Go Your Own Way, all played without a pick, elevates him among the greatest to play the instrument.
After an expertly paced 150-minute set, closed by McVie’s trademark promise of undying love, Songbird, a clearly grateful Fleetwood roared, “And remember, the Mac is most definitely back.”
No doubt, at 100 percent.
Fleetwood Mac returns March 21 at AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami. Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.
Fleetwood Mac set list
You Make Loving Fun
Second Hand News
I Know I'm Not Wrong
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gold Dust Woman
I'm So Afraid
Go Your Own Way
Closing farewells from Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood.