Fleetwood Mac ~ 2015 January 28 ~ The Dunkin' Donuts Center ~ Providence, RI
Band Personnel: Mick Fleetwood (drums); John McVie (bass); Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards, accordion, maracas, grand piano); Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar); Stevie Nicks (vocals); Sharon Celani, Stevvi Alexander, Lori Nicks (backing vocals); two unidentified men behind the drums; Neale Haywood (backing vocals, guitar); Brett Tuggle (backing vocals, keyboards, guitar).
The Chain - You Make Loving Fun - Dreams - Second Hand News - Rhiannon - Everywhere - I Know I'm Not Wrong - Tusk - Sisters Of The Moon - Say You Love Me - Seven Wonders - Big Love - Landslide - Never Going Back Again - Over My Head - Gypsy - Little Lies - Gold Dust Woman - I'm So Afraid - Go Your Own Way - World Turning ... encore ... Don't Stop - Silver Springs - Songbird
As the day of the Fleetwood Mac concert approached, so did a snowstorm which dumped 2 feet of snow on Cape Cod and Providence. Having pulled a muscle in my shoulderblade shoveling, I spent a sad 24 hours thinking there was no way I would be able to get to the show. But I figured out a way to get into Providence by bus so I wouldn't have to jockey for a parking spot downtown with 10-foot snowdrifts everywhere, and the blizzard was completely over by the day of the show, and I found that a good dose of an OTC painkiller made the shoulder injury tolerable, so off I went.
Once in the arena, I spent $5 for a pretty good slice of pizza and $4.50 for a bottle of water, and took my seat way high up in the balcony at the other end of the arena from the stage. The scheduled starting time of 8:00 passed, and the seats were only about half full. The sound system was playing bits and pieces of Fleetwood Mac songs, or variations on them, at a very low volume. Finally I heard the loud sound of crickets and the lights went down. I searched the stage with my binoculars and picked out a figure that I believed was John McVie. The show was about to start!
Up came the lights on stage, the first notes of the first song started up, there was a roar of anticipation ... and then the audience started coming in! I could not believe the rudeness of these people. Here are Fleetwood Mac playing their signature song "The Chain," with John McVie's iconic bass solo, and there are audience members trying to crawl over me to get to their seats. Two young women sitting to my right then chatted loudly through much of the show. Such selfishness and inconsiderate behavior! Fortunately the volume of the music was loud enough that they didn't bother me too much, but ...really? Pay over a hundred dollars for the two of you to go to the show, and then talk throughout it? HUH?
The other rude audience behavior was that EVERYONE on the floor stood for the ENTIRE show. If I had had the misfortunate of being down there I would not have seen a thing for the entire show. Fortunately I knew ahead of time that this would be the case and had the sense to buy a balcony seat.
From where I was sitting I had an excellent view of the stage. Although I was quite some distance from the band, I had binoculars, and since I chose to ignore the jumbotron I was able to watch whatever I pleased. From reading a Fleetwood Mac message board, I had been led to believe that the band were using a great deal of prerecorded samples. I did not see/hear much evidence of this. The real "enhancement" to their sound, and there is no hiding this, is that they are using a gaggle of backing singers and musicians. Over on stage left behind Lindsey were three female backing vocalists on a platform. Next to, and behind Mick Fleetwood were two guys. I could not see them too well since they were behind a big monitor, but at least one of them was playing drums. Oddly, when Mick introduced the band later in the evening, these two men were omitted from the introductions. Over on stage right behind Christine were two additional musicians: Neal Haywood, who played guitar and sang, and Brett Tuggle, who played keyboards during the years when Christine was not in the band. I was quite pleased that Brett played keyboards on only a few songs (I really wanted to hear Christine play), and instead he more often played guitar. He also sang backing vocals. His main keyboard contribution was on "Tusk," when he on his keyboard and Christine on her accordion combined to create the mighty sound of that hypnotic, repetitive, simple riff originally played by a marching band on the record.
I personally would prefer to see just the five real members of the band perform, but over the years the Fleetwood Mac live show has evolved from a normal concert into a multi-media stage event. It's actually more like a play, with dialog, supporting cast, and special effects, than a normal concert. I am guessing this is how superstars present their music in this day and age. I wouldn't know; a more typical concert for me is seeing Ray Mason at a local bar and grille with a dozen people in the audience. It was all very enjoyable and it was a fascinating glimpse into a musical universe that I just simply haven't inhabited in decades.
All five members looked and sounded great. Lindsey, Stevie, and Christine were all dressed in mostly black (Lindsey with jeans). Stevie wore absurd platform boots that were in style forty years ago; apparently this is part of her trademark, but really, her fans would still love her if she wore something that's not so dangerous to her health. Christine wore a nice pair of very stylish low boots and she looked very comfortable; she stood almost the entire concert at her keyboard. She also played accordion on "Tusk" and maracas on "Everywhere" and one other song. Mick and John actually had the most interesting clothes; John was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with a nice red vest and a little white cap, and Mick was wearing a red bandana around his neck that matched John's vest.
When I first saw Fleetwood Mac live in October of 1975, there was no such thing as a big lightshow. Instead they had a backdrop behind the stage with a silhouette of a tree. During tonight's concert, however, there were colorful lights and images projected behind the stage on a giant screen on every song. In some cases, they were live images of what was happening on stage (such as during Lindsey's solo song, "Big Love"); in other songs, they were colors and patterns that helped create a mood; in others, there were images of beings and places and things that illustrated the song (such as during "Rhiannon"). In one case ("Say You Love Me") the images and patterns were reminiscent of the old silhouette of the tree used in the 1975 tour. Seeing this filled me with nostalgia and a memory of how hypnotic this band was that first time I ever saw them.
I was surprised and pleased at what a good place to see a concert the Dunk turned out to be. The sound was surprisingly good, and the volume was excellent. I had earplugs with me but did not need to use them. I could hear the keyboards clearly on just about every song. The only time the sound seemed muddied was during vocal bits (such as on "Everywhere") where everyone was singing. Besides the three primary vocalists, the three girl singers and the two extra male musicians were singing too, so you had a real chorus on a song like that, and it was really too much. I'd rather hear Chris with Lindsey and Stevie, even if their singing wasn't perfect.
The show was well paced, with a mini-acoustic set in the middle, consisting of "Big Love," "Landslide," "Never Going Back Again," and "Over My Head." Everyone else left the stage leaving Lindsey by himself. He introduced the song "Big Love" saying it was from the Tango in the Night album (which got surprisingly little applause), and prattled on for a few minutes about how the meaning of the song has undergone a transformation over the years, saying it was originally a "contemplation on alienation" and it has become a "meditation on the power and importance of change." (I am not making this up.) This seemed godawfully self-important, but then he followed it up with a knockout solo performance of this song -- a song I didn't like many years ago, but that I have come to love over the years. So maybe that stuff he was saying about the importance of change wasn't so pretentious after all.
One at a time the band rejoined Lindsey to continue with the mini-acoustic set. For "Over My Head" the tech crew rolled a small drum kit out to the front of the stage and Christine called Mick down from behind his huge drum kit to take a spot at the front of the stage. "This song is from 1975," she said, "and for this song Mick is going to play a cocktail kit." (I like that: "cocktail kit.") "At the time John and I were still married. Remember that, John?" John nodded and smiled affectionately at her. What a nice relationship those two have. The fact that they were once married is just an ancient curiosity, and doesn't stop them from being friends. A couple of songs later Stevie was giving a longwinded speech, introducing "Gypsy," about how before she was famous she used to go to a trendy clothing store in San Francisco and wish she could afford the clothes. During this longwinded speech John and Christine sat down together on a platform at the back of the stage talking amiably; one would speak into the other's ear, and they would take turns, just like two friends having a conversation in a noisy place. It was sweet to see them interacting so pleasantly, without any of the manufactured drama that characterizes the way Stevie and Lindsey interact on stage. This was the only time I saw John sit. (I'm sure he sat during the couple of acoustic songs when he was off stage.) Having recently recovered from cancer, John is now healthy and it made me happy to see he had the energy to stand for the greater part of a 2.5 hour show.
The main set ended with the Lindsey/Christine collaboration "World Turning," which for many years has included a Mick Fleetwood drum solo. In past years Mick would get up from behind his massive drum kit (why does he need so many drums!?) and play either an African talking drum or some other sort of handheld drum; I once saw him perform with drum pads attached to his clothing and drum on himself. These gimmicks were a thing of the past, for tonight he stayed behind his kit and played a more conventional drum solo, complete with shouting into a microphone: "Are you with me? Day-O!" and other appealing nonsense. Fleetwood Mac have gone through many many changes, but one thing that stays the same is that Mick Fleetwood gets a drum solo.
The band have played the same set at each of the shows during this long tour, so there were no surprises for anyone who has seen the setlists online. This enabled me to plan my departure, since I had a bus to catch. When the encore set started, the first song was "Don't Stop," which includes a killer bluesy piano solo by Christine. It was only about a minute long, but it proved she's still got the chops, and it was the most thrilling moment of the evening. When "Don't Stop" was over, I knew that the next song would be Stevie's "Silver Spring," a rather uninteresting ballad that I didn't mind missing. So, at the end of "Don't Stop" I gathered up my heap of outdoor clothes (it was cold outside!) and hustled back down into the concourse, walking back toward the main exit from the arena. When I heard "Silver Spring" ending I re-entered the arena.
When I did this I got lucky. I emerged from the concourse to a section of the arena just to the right of and very close to the stage. I skipped up one flight of steps to a landing in front of an empty section. From that vantage point I watched as the tech crew lifted a riser that had been hidden below the stage, and up came a grand piano, which the crew then wheeled out onto the stage. Christine came out from backstage and took her seat at the grand, and played "Songbird." From where I was standing I had a great view of her hands on the piano. She turned partially to her right, so that she was singing to the audience. Halfway through, Lindsey, seated on a stool a few yards away from her, joined in on an understated guitar solo. "I wish you all the love in the world, but most of all I wish it from myself." There's a reason they close with this song: this beautiful, simple, and heartfelt love song is a touching way to thank the audience.
As soon as the notes faded from the piano I turned and headed for the door, so I missed the speeches that apparently Stevie and Mick make after the show has ended, but since every moment of this tour has been documented on Youtube I can always go and listen to what they said.
I've been a fan of Fleetwood Mac since I was introduced to their 1970-1974 albums by a classmate in college. Shortly after I started listening to these five "mid period" albums (the version of the band led by Bob Welch), a new album was released by the band, with a new lineup. In addition to the wonderful Christine McVie, they added two new singer/songwriters: guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks.
When my classmates and I first brought this LP home from the record store, we listened, and looked at the credits and the photos, and assumed that the new members were a girl guitarist named Lindsey and a male vocalist named Stevie. We didn't realize our mistake until we went to see them in concert at the old Boston Garden in October of 1975. Needless to say that set us straight about the new kids in the band. There have been many years and many personnel changes since them, and I have seen them in concert a number of times. In 1997 I saw their reunion tour, called The Dance, at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass., in the pouring rain.
After the Dance tour Christine, apparently sick of touring and feeling like she'd done enough, quit the band and moved back to an estate in England. Since she was always my favorite in the band I lost interest in going to see the band.
Come 2014, and Christine, apparently sick of retirement and feeling like she hadn't done enough, came out of retirement and rejoined the band. I did hesitate about going to a show. As anyone who has read anything on my website (www.nicepace.net/concerts) knows, I don't go to concerts in places like the Dunkin' Donuts Center that cost $100. I go to Club Passim, or the Narrows, or the Iron Horse, and typically my tickets are in the $25 range, and I am almost always in the front row.
But this was an exception. Who knew if I would ever have this chance again. Checking the Ticketb*st*rd website, I saw that the cheap seats were "only" $63, so I bought one. And I'm very happy I did, because these five charming individuals have made a great deal of music that has meant a lot to me over the years, and I owed it to myself to see if they still had what it takes to put on a great show.
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