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Cover Story: Fleetwood Mac

| March 2, 2009

Fleetwood Mac
Give The People What They Want


Imagine the headlines if Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours in 2009 instead of the mid-’70s. People magazine, Us Weekly, and other supermarket litter would have a field day, as would the paparazzi waiting to catch a glimpse of a band on the verge of destruction.

Appearing: March 5th and 6th at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

A Britney Spears meltdown barely holds a candle to the oft- recited tale of the band’s two couples breaking up and funneling all the pain, doubt, and bitterness into 11 perfect songs. Add snow-capped mountains of blow to the mix to guarantee a spike in newsstand sales.

“We would have been eaten alive, I’m sure,” guitarist Lindsey Buckingham guesses from home in Los Angeles. “Thank God we didn’t have the kind of tabloidism that exists today.”

Three decades after releasing and surviving Rumours, Fleetwood Mac hits the road with its most successful and well-known lineup in tow for a large-scale tour. Original members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, rock goddess Stevie Nicks, and the thinking-man’s guitar hero Buckingham are all along for the ride (Christine McVie hung up her honeyed vocals after 1997’s The Dancereunion). The foursome last dusted off the Fleetwood Mac tunes five years ago when touring behind Say You Will, but this time the band comes armed with the hits and only the hits – a big departure.

“This is the first tour we’ve ever done where we’re really concentrating on giving all the stuff we feel people would really love to hear because we’ve always toured with a brand-new album. This is the only time we have never done that,” Fleetwood admits, hours before meeting the crew for rehearsal in Los Angeles. “We haven’t been going ’round playing all our lovely songs for 15 years, which a lot of bands do.”

When Buckingham put up the do-not-disturb sign after the last tour to focus on his solo work (2006’s Under The Skin and 2008’s Gift Of Screws), the band took a break with the intent of gathering again at some point to discuss new material.

“There was this implication that the band would reconvene and start doing something and it did indeed begin with the perception that we would go in and make an album first and then start touring,” Buckingham explains. “Somewhere along the line that got inverted and we found ourselves rehearsing first. It wasn’t necessarily my game plan, but a part of what I’m doing this time around is approaching this as much from the standpoint of thinking about everyone’s comfort level.”

Plus, it’s a great way for the longtime friends/former lovers/thorns-in-each-others’ sides to spend time together in a low-pressure situation. “In a way, it’s kinda cool. It kinda frees us up to go out there and just hang out and enjoy each other’s company and not have a particular musical agenda going out there,” Buckingham reasons. “The fact that we are coming out with a tour where there is no agenda to redefine ourselves musically – it kind of gives us that freedom to redefine ourselves a little bit emotionally and personally.”

When these varied personalities converge, drama ultimately follows. According to Buckingham, Nicks left the last tour muttering that she’d never work with him again (oh, how things change), which Buckingham chalks up to the absence of Christine, normally Nicks’ “emotional back-up onstage,” and unresolved issues from years past “that no one ever got closure on.”

On the other hand, Fleetwood characterizes the last tour as “incredibly productive and successful. The Say You Will tour was a happy tour,” Fleetwood says. “We had a good time doing it.”

Always the optimist, Fleetwood is the yin to Buckingham’s brooding yang when it comes to putting a finger on the emotional pulse of the band. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but both can agree the current atmosphere remains affable. “I’d say all the signs are good,” Buckingham forecasts. “I think we’re gonna have a good time out there.”

“It’s always fun when we get back together,” Fleetwood says. “It’s like that old getting-back-on-a-bike thing that you sometimes forget. You forget how good that chemistry is when it’s all locked in. There is something that happens when these people get together and make music. You sort of, in retrospect, in real time look at yourselves in this framework called Fleetwood Mac and you really quietly pay tribute to how special that is. And you spend three, four years apart not doing that – when you do come back in the first week of rehearsal, there’s lots of glances across the stage. You can’t even second guess it. It just consumes you. And you’re never really going to fully analyze it, you just end up totally accepting it and you go, ‘That’s the real shit.’ When we’re all together, this is what happens. And when we’re not together, lots of great things happen for all of us, like I said, Stevie has a very successful [solo career], but still, when she comes back to Fleetwood Mac and we all do, it’s amazing.”

There’s no doubt otherworldly forces are at work when this bunch share a stage. You Tube “Silver Springs” from The Dance concert special MTV first aired in ’97 and behold how the last minute encapsulates the tangible passion coursing through Nicks and Buckingham. When they lock eyes and sing, “I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you,” showmanship gets thrown out in deference to standing face-to-face with a musical soulmate dating all the way back to high school.

Nicks has played duet partner with good friends Tom Petty and Don Henley to proven success, but when Buckingham enters the fold, the intertwining of these two voices elicits a response on par with a first kiss – a mix of excitement, nausea, and a concrete change in body temperature.

It’s no surprise, then, why Buckingham continues to feel a need to participate in this endeavor – even when the same buttons pushed at age 27 manage to still irk the bejesus out of everyone as they approach the AARP years. “I’ve known [Stevie] since I was like 16, so I don’t want Stevie and myself to be so distant from each other in any way,” Buckingham reveals. “I’m doing it because I think I’m going to learn something from it. I think that there’s a road left to be walked with this group of people that needs to be approached in a certain way. I want to see us in a place where we can be friends and enjoy each other and dignify how we got started.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Fleetwood and John McVie also share a history, dating back to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Former Rolling Stone photographer Mark Seliger once dressed the powerhouse rhythm section as a bride and groom for an eerily prophetic photo spread. Most marriages stop short of the 40-year mark – wedded bliss for both Fleetwood and McVie failed to yield such milestone anniversaries – yet their friendship and professional relationship continues to endure.

Janine Schaults

To read more about Fleetwood and McVie, grab the March issue of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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  1. Gary says:

    It’s hard to imagine a time when so much sex drugs and rock n roll in one band was not scrutinized by a hungry press not to mention the paparazzi!

  2. Lisa says:

    I attended one of the shows this time around, and to my disappointment, there was no dynamic connection between Lindsey & Stevie as on tours in the past. It seemed as though Stevie had finally gotten over Lindsey and their past romance, and Lindsey was hanging on for glimpses of that spark they always had. I agree that this will probably be the last tour, but also have to say… that unless the two convince John & Mick to learn some of the music from the Buckingham Nicks album, there will probably never be that connection on stage connection again. The show was a bomb for me unlike their tours in the past.