Have you heard the news? Christine McVie is back! No, I’m not referring to the announcement that tumbled from the colossal Mick Fleetwood at the dawning of 2014. I am in fact referring to news that the beloved Christine McVie is back in the city of Birmingham, or rather, her “old stomping ground” as she affectionately informs the vast audience crammed into the Genting Arena for the first of three dates in the city which will see the ‘On With the Show’ tour approach and surpass the eighty-eighth outing for the most heralded incarnation of the legendary Mac.
It is well documented that for many, the reunification of any such band so intricately woven into the canon of popular music often proves to be an unnavigable pathway. In some instances, the obstacles preventing a return to former glories can be as uncomplicated and permanent as the death of key personnel. More often than not though, the convoluted process of ensuring that all parties are financially rewarded sufficiently so as to ensure that harmony is achieved before a note is even played has the tendency to derail negotiations at the eleventh hour. Such instances scupper the hopes of a fanbase that for so long, have dreamt of being able to experience those records that they hold so dear, performed live, with the very players sealed within the grooves of the wax.
Any plans to scupper the hopes of tonight’s close to capacity crowd are well and truly scuppered when a little later than advertised, the entwined snare-drum of Mick Fleetwood, and the wholly familiar guitar picking of Lindsay Buckingham ring out across the arena for opening song, ‘The Chain’. The bands intention is clear, they are back where they want to be, looking and sounding the way we want them to be, all the while, fully aware of the vulnerability that envelops their union, evident by the plea for whatever forces brought about these circumstances to remain – “chain keep us together, running in the shadows”.
Each precious ticket for tonight is emblazoned with the following warning: PEOPLE AROUND YOU MAY STAND! It would appear that many have taken this not as a notice for the potential impairment to their enjoyment, but rather a nod to do just that. From the moment the band grace the stage, the floor of the arena rises to its feet, a place they will remain for the duration.
The first four songs of the set are all taken from the Rumours album and offer each member their opportunity to shine – Christine McVie: ‘You Make Loving Fun’; Nicks: ‘Dreams’; Buckingham: ‘Second Hand News’ – before Nicks returns to lead vocal duties and a departure from the Rumours monopoly, with a masterful rendition of Rhiannon. All the while, proceedings are kept in check by the erudite rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
The diversity and quality of material that informs the albums not associated with the legendary studio sessions that led to the creation of Rumours are also permitted with a generous portion of the set. ‘Everywhere’ is glorious and can only serve to build upon Christine McVie’s confidence as a live performer since returning from her hiatus. Buckingham is afforded the chance to showcase material from the much maligned ‘Tusk’ album with fervent performances of ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’ and ‘Tusk’. Nicks takes up the mantle once more to further enhance the albums reputation with ‘Sisters of The Moon’.
Christine McVie delivers once more with ‘Say You Love Me’ before the band depart for what has become a stalwart part of any Fleetwood Mac show. The “acoustic set” is perfectly timed and allows Buckingham the opportunity to command central stage with a virtuoso version of ‘Big Love’. Buckingham’s guitar capabilities have not diminished in all the years since these songs were first committed to tape. At times, it would appear that the only thing reigning Buckingham in from his ascent on the fretboard is the fact that he has simply run out of road and there is nowhere further he can venture.
Nicks returns to the stage to join Buckingham in the spotlight to recount her associations with the next song, a personal favourite of her father’s, which adds an insight to the associations that a performer will themselves, attribute to a song, much as any fan often does. Nicks and Buckingham execute sublime versions of ‘Landslide’ and ‘Never Going Back Again’. The band reconvenes for ‘Over My Head’, ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Little Lies’, before delivering an astounding version of ‘Gold Dust Women’, which almost breaches the ten minute mark. This is easily the standout performance of the evening, brought to a closure by Nicks, arms spread, cloaked in a shawl that shimmers in an ethereal splendour.
The set is brought to a closure with ‘Go Your Own Way’, before the encore, which contains ‘World Turning’ and ‘Don’t Stop’, allowing ample time for the obligatory drum solo from Mick Fleetwood. ‘Silver Springs’ is the final number of the night, which leaves the crowd desperate for the band to fulfil a long-held desire to hear ‘Songbird’. Sadly, the curfew prevents this from happening. Judging by the enthusiasm of the band, it could be a realistic possibility that the band will deliver on this obligation the next time around.
Review: Chris Curtis
Photograph courtesy of LiveNation