Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Fleetwood Mac at TWC Arena

Fleetwood Mac celebrated founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood’s 65th birthday Monday with several thousand fans at Time Warner Cable Arena. With no opening act, the core group - now all well into their sixties - opened the two and a half hour set with a bouncy “Second Hand News” and the harmony-driven “The Chain.”  

Although 2012 marked the 35th anniversary of its seminal “Rumours” album, the group seemed at its most reinvigorated playing new material like “Sad Angel” or celebrating its 1979 album “Tusk.” After noting how unconventional and confounding to record execs the 20-track double album was for its time, guitarist Lindsay Buckingham led the charge through “Not That Funny,” “Tusk,” “Sisters of the Moon,” and “Sara.”

The sprawling “Tusk” was met with a standing ovation. Even a member of the arena staff whose parents probably weren’t even in middle school when the album was released applauded and beamed as the lights went up and the crowd roared.

Stevie Nicks’ alto, which has long lacked the range she was capable of in her twenties and thirties, fared best on songs that favored her lower register. Songs like “Sara,” “Gypsy” and “Gold Dust Woman,” for instance, were more forgiving than her opening solo on “Dreams.” 

The petite singer defies nature by looking better at 65 than she did on her 2001 tour. As expected she donned shawls to depict characters like “Rhiannon.” She soared during “Stand Back” - the only hit representing any of the band members’ solo work. The `80s synthesizers brought the crowd to its feet.

The group seemed more relaxed and on its game than during its "Say You Will" Tour at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in 2004. That may have been due to the venue (it also played TWC Arena in 2009) and the scaled down production which featured a handful of projection screens, but the vibe was intimate for an arena show with the band members playing on the same level instead of having Fleetwood towering behind the rest of the group.

Buckingham was at the top of his game as well. Fleetwood called him the group’s mentor and inspiration while introducing the players during the encore. He’s right. Besides whipping out impressive classical and steel string guitar work on songs like his acoustic version of "Big Love" and scale climbing solos like "I'm So Afraid," Buckingham also oozed energy and charisma even when playing songs he's played hundreds of times. On "I'm So Afraid" - a heavier track written for Fleetwood Mac's 1975 self-titled album that's reminiscent of the bluesy work of the band under former guitarist Peter Green -  Buckingham's fingers wiggled all the way up the neck to the body and still managed to sound melodic instead of screechy.

While hits like "Never Going Back Again" and "Go Your Own Way" had the crowd singing along and on its feet, more intimate moments like Buckingham and Nicks' acoustic rendition of "Landslide" and an unearthed song, "Without You," that Nicks wrote when the couple was together in the early `70s before joining Fleetwood Mac. She told of how the song was lost for 35 years before she rediscovered it on YouTube. 

The group seemed happy to keep playing even after 2 hours and 19 songs. It returned twice with hits like "Don't Stop" and "Silver Spring" and the birthday boy's obligatory drum solo but there was the sense that its members could've outlasted fans long into the night.