Fleetwood Mac December 30, MGM Grand Garden Arena
Lindsey Buckingham shared an old music-business adage during Fleetwood Mac’s year-end show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Monday.“‘If it works, run it into the ground,’” he said. “Well, that may work if you’re trying to be a businessman, but not if you’re trying to be an artist.”
Buckingham was referring to the stylistic departure of 1979’s experimental opus Tusk, but it’s a mentality that speaks to the band as a whole. At a time when many of their classic rock peers have devolved into nostalgia-driven caricatures of themselves, Fleetwood Mac remains unapologetically authentic.
Never far from emotional tumult, the band closed out its 63-date world tour Monday night with the return of bassist John McVie, who left the band to undergo cancer treatment this fall, delivering a relentless three-hour set of classics and deeper cuts that left the crowd and the band in tears.
It’s not just Fleetwood Mac’s musical chops that remain strong—be it Stevie Nicks’ ageless voice, Buckingham’s virtuosic guitar, Mick Fleetwood’s primal drumming or McVie’s voluptuous bass work—but the conviction behind each song, renewed and recast in context of the band’s emotional evolution. “You should see me now,” Nicks declared in a lyrical addendum to the simmering “Gold Dust Woman.”
The group stripped away much of the gentleness and restraint that characterizes its best-known work—particularly 1977's Rumours—to highlight the rawness and desperation that underscores it. The result is a honed, aggressive sound that throws a gauntlet to both their contemporaries and the Haims and Fleet Foxes of today, who owe the band more than a small debt.
The quartet, backed by five auxiliary musicians, ripped through songs like “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain,” during which Buckingham snarled, “Damn your love/Damn your lies” before bringing the crowd to its knees with a vicious, drawn-out version of the song’s signature solo—and that was just the beginning of the set.
Beyond Rumors, the group dipped into 1975’s self-titled record with “Rhiannon” and “Landslide,” the latter of which Nicks dedicated to giddy attendees Katy Perry and John Mayer, along with American Horror Story director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Nicks is guest-starring on an upcoming episode). During the wistful pop of “Gypsy” and “Say You Will,” Nicks twirled across the stage with her trademark scarves, mysterious and captivating as ever at 65. The punky crunch of the aforementioned Tusk tunes resonated less broadly with fans, though the more hardcore among them were certainly on their feet for “Not That Funny” and “Sisters of the Moon.”
Fleetwood Mac also performed two new tracks from April’s Extended Play EP. The jaunty power-pop of “Sad Angel” evoked a less highfalutin Arcade Fire, while the rediscovered Buckingham-Nicks demo “Without You” showcased the warmth that still remains between the former lovers.
More impressive than the delicate moments of chemistry between band members—the crowd collectively swooned at Buckingham and Nicks’ embrace at the end of “Sara”—might be their fortitude. The group embarked on a nearly hour-long encore that saw one feverish, climactic rendition topped by another, leaving one to wonder how they had any songs or emotional capacity left. And yet somehow, they left you wanting more.
Moments of showmanship provided a welcome counterweight to some of the emotional heaviness. Nicks showed off several costume changes, including her famous 6-inch platform boots. Video graphics, though somewhat reminiscent of late '90s screensavers, added color to an otherwise barren set. And Fleetwood's drum solo unleashed during “World Turning” was so bombastic that it recalled Garth Algar’s satirical drum fantasy scene in “Wayne’s World.”
“There’s a few more chapters left in the book of Fleetwood Mac,” Buckingham declared towards the end of the set, before closing a final time with a wrenching, slowed down version of 2003’s “Say Goodbye.” Penned by Buckingham as a form of closure with Nicks, the song hushed the crowd as Nicks cried her way through her part.
It’s perhaps trouble with goodbye that keeps Fleetwood Mac young, in the rawest sense of the word—and why its performances will never be about recalling their heyday, but giving redefined meaning to a continued journey.