fleetwood mac in concert

I need to admit this up front — I have a love/hate relationship with Fleetwood mac. I love Stevie Nicks’ voice, and Lindsey buckingham as a guitar player, and when she was with the group, Christy McVie’s vocals. But there’s another aspect of the group, when buckingham starts singing, where I just want to scream. When buckingham is doing his material, I just want to yell “Stonehenge” and go find something else to do.

So when it was announced that Fleetwood Mac would be playing San Jose, Laurie and I talked about it and gave it a miss. And then the Sharks made us an offer we couldn’t refuse — free floor seats, since we’re long-time sharks season ticket holders. At the price, how could you go wrong? So that’s how we ended up at the concert. And normally, with HP Pavilion’s wonky acoustics, I’d rather stay off the floor, anyway.

I’ve seen the group a couple of times before — the previous time in 82 or 83 in Oakland, when they were originally going to play with the Cars, and had to reschedule because Nicks lost her voice (so we ended up with Glen Frey as the opener, trying to prove he didn’t need the Eagles)

Prior to that, I saw them (sharing a bill with War) in Las Vegas, way back about 1973. And, in fact, I did walk out on them that night, thinking that the girl on the piano was pretty good, but man, I wish that guy would shut up… (some things never change….)

So back to HP Pavilion. Mick Fleetwood has grown up to look like Peter Boyle in Young Frankentstein. John McVie looks like, well, my dad, which always freaks me when I see my parents playing in a rock band (the joys of middle age). Lindsey seems to be channelling John Mcenroe. Stevie Nicks looked like if she did any more botox, she’d be immobile…

but, you know? what matters is the music…

Touring with the core members were a keyboardist (who’s name I’ve lost), two female singers (immediately nicknamed “high” and “note”), who were stuck as far to the edge of the stage as possible without having to buy tickets (their job: christy McVie’s parts, and covering Nicks’ lost range), a spare guitarist, a spare keyboardist/synth, a spare bassist, a kick-ass percussionist, and hidden way, way in the back a third drummer.

In other words, Fleetwood Mac is touring with a Fleetwood Mac cover band, on stage at the same time. Which came in handy a lot.

It was, in a word, a weird concert. Nicks started out struggling with her voice, but it finally kicked in. Buckingham seemed completely unable to match her in harmony for the first couple of songs (which had Laurie and I doing the ‘oh, oh” look at each other), but it finally more or less clicked in, although he struggled to stay in harmony all night. Nicks never had a huge range (9 notes? 10?), and it’s narrowed over the years, but who cares? it’s how she uses it, not how far it wanders….

but we (and the crowd could never quite figure out whether the group really wanted to be there or not.

You know, if buckingham wants to do the “dance the guitar riff tango” thing, that’s fine. It’s not a rock concert, I guess, unless you have someone doing the air guitar thing (while your cover is actually playing the music in the back…), threatening to trash the guitar, and overall, acting like a 14 year old in the garage pretending to be Jimi — but Buckingham did it four times during the concert. Hate to tell you this, Lindsey, but that act gets really tired. fast. (a quiet voice whispers “stonehenge”)

And that’s mostly how the concert went: when the band was doing Stevie Nicks stuff, the quality and energy ranged from “contractual obligation professional” to “pretty darn good”. When buckingham took lead (and let Nicks rest her voice), it got very, well, Spinal Tap. the band never really tried to connect with the audience, and the audience repaid the favor; lots of rustling and talking and cel phones and wandering around, and looking at watches was going on. Most of the band seemed going through the motions, except for Buckingham and Fleetwood; buckingham seemed intent on playing “look at me, I’m so great” all night (four smash the guitar ballets? sheesh), but have I noted I’m not really a Buckingham fan? (except when he shuts up and plays…)

Fleetwood and the percussion was, well, Fleetwood. kicked butt. animated. having fun. a bit scary at times, given how much he looked like Boyle… (grin). He and his fellow drummers were the best of the show most of the time (and I have to be honest, I kept hearing more drums than two guys could do, and I was wondering what was going on — it wasn’t until the end of concert intros were done that I realized there was a third drummer hiding in the back of the stage, which explained all of the sweeetening…

One of the great frustrations of the night was the percussion solo by Fleetwood. It didn’t show up until almost the end of the show, but when it did, it electrified the audience. Just turned them on and plugged them into the show — just as it was ending. And then Fleetwood carried it on, and on, and on; something like 20 minutes of watching him drum and prance (with drum machines on a vest) all over the stage. What started as a high energy, electric and great drumming turned into a painful, “how long will he carry this on?” torture; it wasn’t just me, either — I watched as increasing clumps of the audience started streaming to the exits rather than wait for the finale. my guess is between 5-10% of the audience left during his drum piece.

and that’s too bad — if he’d put that drum piece 20 minutes into the concert, and kept it to reasonable levels, they’d ahve owned that audience all night. As it was, much of the show was “going through the paces” with no real connect or energy, and when they finally did ramp it up and get the crowd going, it was way too late, and then they screwed it up again by carrying it on, and on, until we wanted to scream.

So ultimately, it was an occasionally good, mostly frustrating show. Most of the band coasted, except for Buckingham and Fleetwood, and they seemed more interested in showing off than entertaining. Maybe you like like kind of excess — but I sure didn’t, and from the number of folks fiddlign with stuff or just sitting there passive (or, later on, leaving), I wasn’t alone.

Next time, even if the tickets are free, I think I’ll pass.