Fleetwood Mac is a band that embodies change and transformation. After a slew of different lineups, they hit their stride in the mid-‘70s, around the time that many of their fellow Boomers were settling down and starting families. Maybe that’s why their most beloved songs contrast a sort of jaded wisdom with hopeful confidence – the perfect soundtrack for growing up while still feeling young and looking forward to the future.
As someone who wasn’t alive when Fleetwood Mac released their iconic albums, I didn’t immerse myself in their music until my late twenties, but I’d been anxiously waiting to see the band on this tour with the ‘classic’ lineup back together for the first time in almost two decades. While I was pretty bummed last month when the band cancelled the original date of their Little Rock performance, I think it was a blessing in disguise. The show on April 19 at Verizon Arena was their 81st and last stop in the U.S. for the current tour, and it did not disappoint. The performance overflowed with emotion, with everyone in the band – most of them pushing 70, if not past it – giving their all.
I can’t imagine a more appropriate opener than “The Chain,” which kicks off the second side of “Rumors.” It’s a brooding changeling of a song that morphs into a driving rocker, and it showcased the unmistakable harmonies of the band’s three vocalists – Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie – as well as the rock solid rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood & bassist John McVie. With this one, the Mac demonstrated themselves to be in top form from the starting gun, and the crowd’s excitement showed that everyone knew they were in for a special performance.
Next, the band launched into another Rumours favorite, “You Make Loving Fun,” which features Christine McVie on vocals. McVie, who also plays keyboards, departed the band in 1998, and this tour marked the return of her uniquely recognizable voice.
“Dreams” and “Second Hand News” followed, giving Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham each a chance for the lead vocal spotlight. Neither of their voices seems to have aged much – Nicks’ range is maybe slightly more limited than it once was, but all the power is still there – and Buckingham’s signature fingerpicking guitar chops are still on point.
I was surprised and delighted to hear “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” a weirdly catchy number from the band’s somewhat experimental 1979 double album “Tusk,” and one of my personal favorites. The band’s joyful singing in unison with the song’s signature synth part at the end of the chorus was a lovely touch. The title track from that album was another highlight, the big screen behind the stage filled with disjointed visuals of marching bands that created the illusion of live horns and put the crowd in the middle of a second-line parade.
Showing their age a bit, several band members took turns taking breaks in the middle of the set, but this gave a chance for Buckingham and Nicks to showcase their solo skills with “Landslide” and “Never Going Back” before finishing strong with favorites like “Little Lies,” “Gold Dust Woman” and “Go Your Own Way.”
Of course, the crowd knew this wasn’t the end. The band came storming back for an encore with an extended version of the bluesy, upbeat “World Turning,” during which the spotlight turned to Mick Fleetwood for a lengthy, ecstatic drum solo filled with audience call and response. After announcing the band members and backup musicians, we were treated to the eternally optimistic “Don’t Stop” and a teary coda of “Silver Springs.”
The performance was everything I could have hoped for and more, and I’m grateful to the band for coming to Arkansas and to everyone at Verizon who helped make this happen. Cheesy as it sounds, getting to see a reunited Fleetwood Mac was nothing short of life-affirming. At times during the show, I felt a bittersweet recognition that this might well be the last time the band tours with all five of its most crucial members together, but at the very end of the performance, Mick Fleetwood returned to the stage, delivered an uplifting speech, and exchanged hats with an audience member before proclaiming loudly and defiantly, “THE MAC IS DEFINITELY BACK!”