Fleetwood Mac (Genting Arena, Birmingham, 8th May 2015)

As was the case when I saw Meat Loaf, this was a ‘last chance’ concert for a band who meant a lot in my childhood, as their greatest hits album was a mainstay in the car when my age was still in the single digits. Tickets weren’t cheap but I bit the bullet and bought myself and my mother tickets to go.

The setlist itself was pretty great, and had some awesome highlights. ‘The Chain’ was a brilliant choice to open the show, as it began atmospherically and deadly seriously before the white lights were ignited for the final guitar bit. Fleetwood Mac were here.

In spite of the seemingly endless banter by Lindsey Buckingham, his solo performance of ‘Big Love’ was great, and more furious than ever.  Thinking back to my childhood, it is a song that ranks alongside Meat Loaf’s ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ as a song that I didn’t know was about sex, as I didn’t know what sex even was. During this performance, the provocative “ooh-ah” vocal exchange was far less sensual, and bordering on an assault. Continuing with my bias in favour of Tango in the Night singles, ‘Little Lies’ was also a highlight for me. It was so energetic that I would much rather has been on my feet, rather than rooted to my seat.

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Two more highlights surprisingly came not from singles, but songs that I didn’t know so well – ‘Gold Dust Woman’ and ‘I’m So Afraid’ closed the main set, both of which were extended from around to five minutes to over ten minutes. During the former, Stevie Nicks danced around in her signature fluttering style, wearing a twinkling gold robe. It might have been handy earlier on in the show, considering how easy she was to lose on stage because she is so tiny. At this point, the band weren’t projecting to the audience so much, but creating a darker and more epic atmosphere. The latter is another piece to commend for sheer scale, as Lindsey’s guitar solo was incredible, and he looked so into it. He even let people in the front row strum his guitar.

As great as it was, that’s not to say that there weren’t any disappointments. Most irritating? They had dropped my favourite ‘Seven Wonders’ from the set, so I was gutted! Stevie has also now been forced to evade a few high notes, and while it’s not a big deal it stuck out like a sour thumb during ‘Rhiannon’ she did not even bother with the high notes. They also wouldn’t shut up about the return of Christine McVie – sure it marked the reunion of the classic line-up, but it didn’t need to be mentioned every couple of songs!

On that subject, the banter was atrocious. As much of a nutcase as Lindsey can be, nothing could justify some of his chatter before ‘Big Love’. In spite of the many, many shows before this one, not even he knew where his analogies were headed – discussing what it meant when he wrote it, and the ‘karmic’ qualities of what it means now. He may have upstaged Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia for the cheesiest ‘spirituality’ speech that I have witnessed onstage. That said, it was quite humorous to see him discuss their troubles (although it lasted forever): “bygones should be bygones” and giggling as he mentioned that “some of them were pretty well publicised”. It was pep talk after pep talk, as they mentioned repeatedly how they got themselves together. Similarly, Stevie was very melodramatic as she discussed the dark places she had been, before mentioning that she “didn’t give up”, and moved onto happier memories of the Velvet Underground boutique store where she built her signature style. She sings about that ‘Mecca’ of hers (as she referred to it) in ‘Gypsy’.

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However, the most awkward moment of all, unsurprisingly, was courtesy of Mick Fleetwood, during his drum solo. The audience did one thing that I have never witnessed – clapped in time with the band without getting faster. Mick was clearly trying to perform an impressive accelerating solo, and even though he stopped and tried again, but no! The audience’s rhythm was just too good. Eventually he gave up and the band returned to the stage. There were only so many times he could grin and say “nice and easy!” and “nice and slow!” to state that he intended to speed up, but it just didn’t work!

Notably, I’m convinced that they ran out of time, as they didn’t return to the stage to perform standard closer ‘Songbird’, instead closing on ‘Silver Springs’. Perhaps Mick spent a bit too long with his infamous ‘balls’, literally squatting and tea-bagging into Stevie Nicks’ top hat.

 

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