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Fleetwood Mac At Madison Square Garden, Monday, April 8th, 2013, Review

Christine McVie, who retired in 1998, has said that “if they wanted me to, I might pop back on stage when they’re on London just to do a little duet or something like that." The they in question is Fleetwood Mac who performed an immaculate set at Madison Square Garden Monday evening and still missed one of their key components, in Ms. McVie. Her ex-husband, bassist and anchor John  McVie  was there,  along with the other original band member, drummer Mick Fleetwood.  But no Christine.

The So Cal Mac, a pop art band, break down as follows: Stevie Nicks wrote folk rock anthems for girls who still believed in fairies, Lindsey Buckingham was the King of guitar pop artiness and Christine wrote So Cal anthems.  So, with little choice in the matter, the band sang“Don’t Stop” and “You Can Go Your Own Way” without Christine but there was a gaping wound  they chose not to mend where “You Make Loving Fun” and “Over My Head” should have been.

A real loss and Mac  would’ve been a better band with her there.

But they were a great band without her.  It became obvious Fleetwood Mac were on a mission to reminds us just who Fleetwood Mac are. And it became abundantly clear when four Tusk era songs were followed by three acoustic numbers, and the set maintained its momentum, that they are one of the most influential rock bands ever with a catalog much ddeper than you might first think. Put the onus on Lindsay Buckingham who is, of course, God. He is the  guiding light and reason for being of the entire 1970s LA music scene: a wonderful guitarist whose finger picking on his “meditation on alienation” “Big Love’ was the single best guitar work I’ve seen all year. A fluid, dissolving sound so uniquely Lindsay he could patent the sound.

From the opening “Second Hand News” it is Buckingham’s night and I don’t think anybody there was surprised, not even by the brilliant solo on “Eyes Of The World” through the blues work out of “So Afraid” to the gorgeous lick on “Never Going back”, it was a complete triumph though  not a surprise.

Stevie Nicks was a surprise.

I had seen Stevie two years ago opening for Rod Stewart and I thought she was just awful. All the twirling, witches, goblins and fairies you can imagine and worse. And I expected the same on Monday but guess what? Except for a “Gold Dust Woman” performed to remind us how bad she can be, Nicks made a perfect foil for Lindsay, and a love fest on the new “Without You” written for Lindsay pre-Mac days and a beautiful duet. But that wasn’t the best of Stevie, the “Tusk” B-Side "Sara" was so undeniable, so lovely, I couldn’t believe it was Stevie.

I am on the record as saying Nicks has one song in her, “Landslide” but it just isn’t true. Forget “Rhiannon” and “Dreams”, what price “Sisters Of The Moon” and “Gypsy"? And the  throaty, deep timbre that gives an echo to her words over and above the wood nymph crap. Maybe it is Lindsey who was adding a dimension to the woman not present in her solo concerts,  just the echoes of their decades and decades together, or maybe the very beginning love works as a reminder but also a spur to greatness.

Part of it is team magic, Fleetwood and Mac are such a strong force at the bottom and Buckingham and Nicks such a joyful affair in the middle, it is like a puzzle. It is a bit of anti-So Cal Mac. That coke addled love affair Mama’s And Papa’s plus drummer for the laid back soap opera hybrid 70s are not the no sleep till Venice Beach, hard smooth elder statesmen of modern Cali rock. The former, whether  it be Dawes or Rilo Kiley or really everybody in between has to be switched on by these guys, but the latter is  what's in their hearts in a swinging melodic art pop headlined by Lindsey and given freedom by John!.

I’ve always felt that  Buckingham doesn’t really need Mac (except for money, of course) the way Mac needs Buckingham.Lindsey is so great he lifts up the entire band with him. But based on the two new tracks (an EP will be released later this week) , “Without You” and especially Lindsey’s best Mac song since Tango In the Night, “Sad Angel”, perhaps he does need them. On Monday night when Stevie and Lindsay shared the stage while Fleetwood and especially McVie kept them steady, it seemed like a type of symbiosis. Everybody was better and especially Stevie managed an artistic habitation I have never ever consider her in possession of before.

I saw the band in 1996, when Christine was still with them, playing a greatest hit package, and they were not this good. A couple of things played into Monday’s show being so terrific.

1. It was the third night of the tour and everybody was still fresh.

2. Yes, 12 songs were from Fleetwood Mac and Rumors, but that means 12 were nothing of the sort, and the deeper album cuts were well chosen and the new ones were great.

3. There is something ineffable about a band on its game –they just were

So, yeah, London will get Christine McVie and we didn’t but we did get the best Fleetwood Mac show ever.

Grade: A

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