Return of the Mac—another crazy episode in the longest-running soap opera in rock'n'roll
EARL’S COURT, LONDON
Wednesday December 10, 2003
There’s a hip young gunslinger of Uncut’s acquaintance in the audience tonight who normally writes about futuristic electronic dance music for a well-known weekly music paper. And he is so moved by this performance by Fleetwood Mac, not just a guilty pleasure but his all-time favourite pop group, that he’s in tears, with the lowing sounds that accompany proper sobbing.
Fleetwood Mac have the strangest effect on the least likely people. They’re MOR with edge. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who turned the drama of their disintegrating relationship into one of the best-selling albums ever made (1977’s Rumours), are that edge. They flaunt it tonight. Buckingham and Nicks, the Meg and Jack White of dreamy, druggy ’70s adult soft rock, act like this is the epilogue to the longest-running soap opera in rock’n’roll. He kisses her hand. They hug. They slow dance. They sing “Say Goodbye”, one of two valedictory ballads that climax the recent Say You Will comeback set, not to the crowd but to each other as if to apologise, right here, in front of several thousand fortysomethings in sensible knitwear, for hurting each other in the name of love. Then?and Uncut shits you not?during faster number “What’s The World Coming To” Stevie plays the bull to Lindsey’s matador and, hunched forward, charges across the stage at his invisible cape with her index fingers poking above her head as horns. There is no weirder group in mainstream rock.
And this is odd music for a stadium. Buckingham, pop’s most handsome studio nerd, takes centre stage for a thrilling version of “Big Love” that is vaguely like a speeded-up madrigal, with amazing guttural expulsions at the end. Nicks classics such as “Rhiannon” and “Gypsy Woman”, meanwhile, feature fantastical imagery more suited to a rainswept beach at midnight, or a hippie-chick’s candlelit boudoir. Stevie’s voice hasn’t aged, but then she always did sound world weary. The still sexy couple duet for “Beautiful Child”, like Gram and Emmylou with a pop sheen.
Lindsey diffidently introduces two songs from the entirely Buckingham/Nicks-penned Say You Will, but it won’t be long before their latest and greatest work achieves the recognition it deserves. The fact that it wasn’t persuasively marketed on giant billboards across the globe as RUMOURS II: THIS TIME IT’S CATHARTIC represents something of a missed opportunity on the part of the record company. The blistering “Come”, with Buckingham, a much-underrated guitarist, soloing ferociously like Neil Young in Warren Beatty’s body, and the breathtakingly adventurous “Everybody Finds Out”, should be soundtracking the lives of the millions of teenagers who bought Rumours, all grown up now with ruinous affairs and catastrophic marriages behind them.
Never mind, because here comes big Mick Fleetwood?the safe base around whom Stevie and Lindsey whirr madly?lurching towards the front of the stage with synthesiser pads attached to his waistcoat like the percussive equivalent of a suicide bomber. Only instead of blowing himself up, he’s going to entertain us with a riot of drum samples. Suddenly he goes all bug-eyed and starts blurting in tongues like some Masai warrior?or something you’d cross the street to avoid at the Edinburgh festival?and, quite unexpectedly, the B&Q brigade roar their approval. Weird band, strange fans, crazy night.