Fleetwood Mac @ Birmingham NIA – 3rd November 2009

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I haven’t been this excited about a gig for a long time; probably because I never thought I would see this band live, let alone with both Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham on stage together. Fleetwood Mac have had various personnel changes over the past forty two years with the one constant being their giant drummer, Mick Fleetwood. Tonight’s line up consists of the members that recorded their most famous album, Rumours, minus keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie.

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The band was due on stage at 8pm, so as the clock is creeping towards half past, the audience are becoming more anxious awaiting their arrival. Finally, the band enters the stage starting with the short ditty Monday Morning, the opening track from their self-titled 1975 album. Instantly, the crowd are won over just by seeing the band let alone with what they are playing and the volume produced. Second track in, Fleetwood Mac unleash The Chain with its mighty bass line, vocal harmonies and finger picking guitar part. A shiver runs down my spine as the band present a far rawer version to the recording, allowing the dynamics of the track to truly speak, the crescendo building to Buckingham’s tantalizing guitar solo at the end. This track alone has justified the excitement that I have felt all day and I would leave now a happy lady. The Chain is followed by another classic, Dreams, in which Stevie Nicks’ vocals are released to a responsive audience. Unfortunately, the sound levels cause Buckingham’s backing vocals to drown out Nicks and despite her unique voice she is unable to reach the higher notes and leaves those to the three female backing vocalists.

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Before I Know I’m Not Wrong, Lindsey Buckingham explains to the audience about the emotional turmoil that is Fleetwood Mac, which is of no surprise to anyone, and suggests that there maybe a new album in the pipeline, information that is greeted with rapturous applause. Following Buckingham’s, Stevie Nicks, dressed in her typical lacy attire, explains the inspiration behind Gypsy and proceeds to develop this mental image through her competency with lyrics. After venturing in to his solo work with Go Insane, Buckingham ends sitting down at the foot of the drums whilst Nicks re-enters the stage to a fantastic rendition of Rhiannon. The tempo of the set increases with Second Hand News and the pounding, infectious rhythm of Tusk, which the whole band commits to wholeheartedly. This powerful track leads into Sara; despite being less upbeat, the tension on stage between Nicks and Buckingham starts to take its toll and the song ends with them embracing and Stevie leaving the stage obviously touched.

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The flood of emotion does not finish there, as the lone figure of Buckingham picks up his electro-acoustic guitar and takes Big Love to another stratosphere. From an 80’s electro hit, he creates a haunting yet purely beautiful stripped down song that brings a tear to my eye through the raw passion he displays. Nicks rejoins him for Landslide and Never Going Back, at which point the rest of the band enter the stage for Storms, Fleetwood on a smaller drum kit positioned at the front. The set continues with Say You Love Me which sees Mick return to his vast, main kit to begin the cowbell preparation for Gold Dust Woman. This mesmerising track sees the stage lights drop and the simple set light up with golden flickers, as Nicks releases her tour de force with room for an extended instrumental section which develops the song bewitchingly.

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The audience’s emotions are taken to a lighter place with a humorous version of Oh Well proceeded by I’m So Afraid, in which Buckingham’s true capabilities as a guitarist are demonstrated during an amazing solo, which goes beyond comparison. After a version of Nicks’ solo track Stand Back, the band launch into the anthemic Go Your Own Way. The whole arena is dancing and singing at the top of their voices, enjoying every beat, and all too soon Fleetwood Mac are gone. The band returns after a short interlude to play World Turning, in which Mick Fleetwood has his turn to shine with a drum solo. Whilst the rest of the band leave Mick to it, Buckingham takes a seat by the monitors to watch his colleague, unfortunately, the solo does go on too long for my liking and made me wish they had squeezed another song into the set instead. However, Fleetwood Mac take to the stage for the final track of the evening, Don’t Stop which leaves an optimistic mark on the NIA. Apart from McVie, each band member thanks the audience with genuine sincerity which is unnecessary as I want to thank them for their pure brilliance.

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When I think of Fleetwood Mac, I tend to think of vocal harmonies and subtle interweaving melodies but never guitar genius; I have been so wrong for all these years. Throughout the evening, Lindsey Buckingham has displayed some of the best guitar playing I have ever seen, supported by his enthusiasm and terrific vocals he has made this one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Fleetwood Mac is not all about Buckingham either and it would be remiss of me not to comment on their greatness as a band, Nicks’ unique vocals, McVie’s laid back bass lines and Fleetwood’s simple yet effective rhythms, all of which add up to utter brilliance.

Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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