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Friday, 12 June 2015

Another Point Of View: Fleetwood Mac (Review By Paul)

Fleetwood Mac: Genting Arena, Birmingham

In September 2013 I finally achieved a lifelong ambition to see Fleetwood Mac in the flesh. The experience was documented in my review in the Musipedia and readers will have been aware that the evening, despite being overrun with event twats, and the absence of Christine McVie, was rather special. When the band announced a further run of dates, complete with McVie, under the banner of ‘On With The Show’, further tickets were purchased in anticipation of another evening of superb music.

There are few amongst the Musipedia crew that are unfamiliar with the Genting Arena, formerly the LG Arena amongst other names. To me it is always the NEC although that is just the name of the sprawling complex which houses conference halls, hotels and numerous other buildings. Having had an uneventful journey and Mrs H’s magnificent retro themed packed lunch, we were inside the venue with over an hour to spare; time to marvel at the £30 t-shirts, £20 tote bags and £15 programmes. Yes, they are a huge band, but really? £30 for a t-shirt? C’mon, do you need the money that badly? As for the fleeces, £50 for a product that looked like it had been completed at a ‘Print Your Own’ shop was pretty poor. I really despise these soulless corporate sponsored caverns, charging £4.50 for a bottle of warm lager and £2.20 for a bottle of water. Add in the appalling range of food (since when was Old El Paso a gig food?) and my rage increases. Anyway, rant over, on with the show!

I’d read prior to the gig that Stevie Nicks was feeling the strain of this tour, which started off in September 2014 in the States. As the band arrived on stage to an unsurprisingly huge ovation and kicked off with The Chain, it was immediately apparent to me that Nicks looked slightly out of sorts. As the night progressed her movement appeared restricted and her interaction with the audience significantly less than at the O2 on the previous run. As would be expected, the set list had changed to incorporate some of the McVie led tracks, and we lost Without You, Sara, and Stand Back (Nicks’ solo work) as a result. Classic tracks You Make Loving Fun, Second Hand News and Dreams got the audience singing along but the muddy mix was not helping with the bass lines too loud and the vocals distant at times. Although it did improve throughout the evening you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the sound wasn't crystal clear; it is the beautiful vocals that are an integral part of this band after all.

Christine McVie’s return has been much heralded and the band were keen to make reference to her “completing” the circle. Lindsay Buckingham made a magnificent fuss of her in his first interaction with the audience whilst Nicks also ensured that the spotlight was focused on her fellow female member. However, although it was fantastic to see her back in the band, in the live arena McVie's songs are substantially weaker than those led by Nicks. Everywhere, from the Tango In The Night album was case in point, although to be fair, this may just be personal preference. The three of us present are very much in the Nicks camp. A reduced set from Tusk (I Know I'm Not Wrong, the title track and Sisters Of The Moon) was followed by Say That You Love Me before the acoustic set arrived.

This was the opportunity for Buckingham to take centre stage, and he doesn't need any invitation. The solo version of Big Love was followed by the beautiful duet with Nicks on Landslide before a stripped down version of Never Going Back Again highlighted his stunning acoustic guitar work.
Although Nicks may have looked uncomfortable at times, there was absolutely nothing wrong with her voice and throughout the night her vocal performance remained as enchanting and captivating as ever. Gypsy and Gold Dust Woman were undoubted peaks in a show crammed with quality. Little Lies, one of my least favourite Mac tracks got the usual ecstatic response from vast swathes of women in the audience, who then as expected chatted all the way through my favourite Mac track, I'm So Afraid, complete with Buckingham’s trademark stunning guitar solo. In my last review I referred to him as one of the most underrated guitarists in rock, and I stand by that view. His unique picking style and three finger fretwork is just extraordinary. The main set finished with Go Your Own Way, and we braced for the inevitable Mick Fleetwood drum solo that is a part of World Turning, encore track number 1. Sure enough, we didn't have to wait too long and that provided the opportunity to head for the conveniences ahead of our return journey. Fleetwood spent ten minutes introducing the extended band (extra guitarist, keyboardist and backing vocalists) in his inimitable English gentry accent before the band wrapped up proceedings with the obligatory Don’t Stop; cue much appalling dancing from the crowd and a lot of singing. Just as we thought the night was ending, the opening bars to possibly the best track of the night, Silver Springs echoed out and a further five minutes under the spell of La Bella Donna really made the hairs stand on the back of the neck as well as rounding of the evening nicely.

Fleetwood Mac are a legendary band, comprised of massive egos. Even in the calmer setting of today, the tensions within this unit bubble close to the surface. Mick Fleetwood is eccentric but impressive in his drumming, John McVie rarely moves into the spotlight, content to lay down the rhythm whilst Buckingham and Nicks compete for the spotlight throughout the show. What about Christine McVie? Well, in stunningly good shape for her age, she certainly brings something to the band. However, as I said earlier, as much more of a fan of the Nicks music, it was difficult to warm to her in the same way. Having said that, this was still an evening of high quality from a band that have no right to still be on the same stage, given the baggage that they carry. Although not reaching the heights of my first viewing in 2013, Fleetwood Mac are still very much value for the ticket with a 2.15 hour performance. In fact, as Mrs H said to me after Landslide, listening to that live was worth the cost of the ticket alone. 8/10

(This was supposed to be the first of two shows in the Genting, however the next days show was cancelled at the very last minute, causing much annoyance to the many that had travelled to be there. Thankfully I finally got my Mac fix but cancelling at short notice was poor form indeed - Ed)

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