Live Review

Fleetwood Mac, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

This time machine has given us one hell of a ride.

As we sit in the middle of the vast Newark Prudential Center waiting for Fleetwood Mac to come to the stage an usher comes over to us with a question. ‘How would you describe Fleetwood Mac? I’m just talking to my friend but I can’t think what to say.’ Before I can venture an answer she carries on talking. ‘It’s not rock ’n’ roll … so maybe pop.’ I nod, open my mouth but she answers again. ‘Yeah, pop. Thank you.’

She’s probably right. Fleetwood Mac have made their name creating unique pristine pop for a lifetime – yet there has always been those turbulent undertones. This is a group whose story has been played out in public and whose songs tell the very real story of the band. Their back catalogue is a lesson in creating perfectly complicated, polished pop anthems. And that’s where their magic is found, in the balance they struck: the dichotomy of the male and female vocals, the ethereal ballads and arms aloft anthems, of love and the opposite.

Tonight’s show is a veritable greatest hits. For nearly two and a half hours they hold the Prudential Center crowd in the palm of their hand, captivating with their West Coast harmonies, incomparable chemistry and sleek perfection.

For me, like many, listening to these songs is like getting in a time machine, taking me back to hot summer days as a child being driven through France with leather seats and without air conditioning; and later of parties drunkenly singing along to ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’. I mean, the first three songs are ‘Second Hand News’, ‘The Chain’ (I’m not sure the American audience had the same Formula One appreciation as I did) and ‘Dreams’. That’s just showing off.

Listening to lines like ‘shackin’ up is all you wanna do” and “Players only love you when they’re playing” make you wonder how they can get on the stage together. Yet, whether it’s acting or for real, the relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks still has that frisson of flirtation. They manage to put the burden of their history to one side as Buckingham plays a spellbinding acoustic version of ‘Big Love’ and ‘Never Going Back’ which sandwiches Nicks’ heartbreaking ‘Landslide’.

Just looking across the stage it’s clear Fleetwood Mac is most definitely the sum of all its parts (though this does make the absence of Christine McVie more pronounced - apparently something that may be rectified at one of the London shows) and each brings their own character to the stage.

Buckingham is a true showman and he seizes the stage for the whole show. His voice fills the arena and his guitar solos could go on all night – on ‘I’m So Afraid’ it seems it will. Sometimes he jumps up and down astonished at his own guitar work. His passion is overwhelming and it was his vision for the band that saw them push things forward. Before they play ‘Not That Funny’ and ‘Tusk’ he tells the crowd that the music industry works on the idea that ‘if it works, run it into the ground… but that’s not good to follow if you want to be an artist. We’ve subverted that notion, especially on ‘Tusk’. I’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Warners when they listened to it.’ Listening to ‘Tusk’ tonight it makes it clear the band were right – it sounds incredibly vibrant.

Then there’s Stevie. On tracks like ‘Dreams’ she seems to be chasing the song but she grows in to the show, with costume changes and loud cheers as she slowly spins in front of her mic. ‘Gold Dust Woman’, with its extended outro, shows her smoky brilliance and I wasn’t anticipating how crazy the crowd would go for the disco stomping ‘Stand Back’.

Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are the English backbone. McVie the strong silent type, Fleetwood the quintessentially eccentric Englishman. He plays a ten-minute drum solo during ‘World Turning’, his eyes nearly popping manically out of his head. You can tell he still loves every single minute of this.

It’s a set which doesn’t let up. They play a new song, ‘Sad Angel’ which doesn’t sound out of place, and throw in ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Gypsy’. They end with a massive
version of ‘Go Your Own Way’ before returning for an equally gigantic and celebratory ‘Don’t Stop’.

Then it’s left to Nicks and Buckingham to deliver the last word as they come out one final time to finish with ‘Say Goodbye’. Someone on the front row fan hands them a vinyl copy of the Buckingham Nicks record. They seem genuinely touched, the past racing through their minds. ‘This is all your fault,’ Nicks jokes to the audience as we leave. She’s talking about how they wouldn’t have created these songs, these moments, this experience, if it wasn’t for the fans. It’s a show which sees the past and the present come face to face. This time machine has given us one hell of a ride.

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