Photography by Amanda Koellner
Maybe Fleetwood Mac will still be doing what they do 20 years from now. It wouldn’t surprise me. They lived through peak self-destruction, through the decades when bands were losing members left and right to the side effects of 20th century music culture, lived through the years when fame sounded a lot like a death knell. They endured more fractures in public than many people have to deal with in private. But Fleetwood Mac were lucky. They made it out.
They know it, too, and they couldn’t be more grateful. Playing the 56th night of their On with the Show tour on Valentine’s Day at Chicago’s Allstate Arena, the band emerged to an audience of thousands on a stage decorated with bouquets of red roses. This is Fleetwood Mac’s first tour with Christine McVie since she quit the band in 1998, and her presence lent the concert the feel of a warm, comfortable family reunion with the most bohemian aunts and uncles you’ve got.
Like folks seeing their extended family for the first time in years, Fleetwood Mac tell stories. Stevie Nicks recalled the first time she stood on the painted floor of the Velvet Underground, a clothing store in San Francisco where Janis Joplin was known to shop for her stage looks. She talked about seeing her future as a musician there and urged everyone present to stick to their dreams — a platitude, maybe, but one that took flight coming from your hippie aunt Stevie Nicks.
Fleetwood Mac keep it simple — and joyful — in concert. Mick Fleetwood has his monogrammed gold drum kit, and Nicks has her several changes of goth nymph looks, but they don’t act like rock stars. They played like they loved the songs more than anyone else in the room, and maybe they did. They spoke to the audience as though they were genuinely touched by our outpourings of applause. I think they were.
They kicked off the night with “The Chain”, a Rumours cut with a bass line big enough to knock you off your feet if you’re not careful. They jumped right into the heart of what’s made them so vital to pop music as we understand it now. Fleetwood Mac deal in poles: their songs are heavy and quick, rousing and sad, massive and massively vulnerable, all in one.
Live, they take their time. In between two cuts from Tusk, Lindsey Buckingham took a moment just to share his thoughts with us as they came to him. “We are a band that, I think it’s safe to say, has seen its share of ups and downs,” he said. “What makes us what we are, I think, is that we have continued to grow and evolve and to prevail through the good and the bad. And in this particular moment, with the return of the beautiful Christine, I’ve been able to begin a brand-new, prolific chapter in the story of this band Fleetwood Mac.”
Was that a hint? They didn’t share new songs with us, and to be fair, they have more than enough material to draw from already. But “prolific” is a hopeful word to use for someone who’s been with this band for 40 — 40! — years.
Maybe he just meant the tour, the indelible energy that Buckingham and his bandmates are able to conjure up night after night for a new group of people each time. To get on stage, to play these old songs, and to mean it — that’s its own kind of prolific. For a band with Fleetwood Mac’s heritage, it’s startlingly rare. There was a moment after Stevie Nicks finished singing “Silver Springs” when she thanked us — us — for cheering. “That song is my heart,” she said. I believed her. It is brave, hard work to bare it like that.
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