Despite a major lineup change, Fleetwood Mac presents a more unified front

From left, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and John McVie.
Illustration: Charles Sykes / AP Photo
Annie Zaleski

Back in April, Fleetwood Mac’s 50th anniversary celebration got off to a controversial start, with the dramatic departure of longtime guitarist/singer/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham. Accounts vary as to what happened, although the end result is that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers recruited two new members for their current world tour: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, a longtime friend and collaborator of Stevie Nicks, and Crowded House frontman Neil Finn.

Although the Buckingham-less lineup is a contentious subject—especially online, the #TeamLindsey contingent is vociferous—the new-look Mac put on an exuberant and entertaining show in Cleveland, Ohio, back in late October. Fresh off a lengthy solo arena tour, Nicks felt like the band’s de facto leader, between her nuggets of witty banter and dramatic performances—highlighted by a witchy, shimmering “Gold Dust Woman” and a script-flipping lead vocal turn on “Black Magic Woman,” transforming the song into an empowered feminist anthem.

Campbell fit in seamlessly, adding hypnotic electric rave-up riffing to “Oh Well” and whimsical marxophone to “Gypsy.” And although Finn might have been perceived initially as the wild card addition, his voice was strong and mellifluous, in particular on a boisterous “Second Hand News” and live rarity “Monday Morning,” and appropriately delicate on a moving take on Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”

Conventional wisdom about Fleetwood Mac is that residual relationship drama underlines fascination with the band—that the long-ago Nicks and Buckingham romantic union and uncoupling (and, to a lesser extent, Christine and John McVie’s marriage and divorce) offer occasional moments of lingering tension. With Buckingham no longer in the lineup, however, what became clearer is that unity—and, more specifically, sisterhood and brotherhood—actually explains the band’s enduring appeal.

That was evident in the lighthearted mood of the concert. Fleetwood Mac is a reliably excellent and well-rehearsed live act, but there was a lightness and joy to the Cleveland show that’s been absent from previous tours. That vibe also highlighted the strength of drummer Mick Fleetwood’s longtime creative partnership with bassist John McVie: The two have been playing together in the band since its 1967 inception, and the forceful rhythmic underbelly they produce remains one of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest advantages.

But the special bond between Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks especially had its time to shine. Not only does the merchandise on this tour include a T-shirt with their visages accompanied by the word “Sisterhood,” but these particular song arrangements felt geared toward the pair’s gifts. The sighing chorus of “Rhiannon” was as gorgeous as a placid lake at sunrise, and as the ’80s chestnut “Everywhere” crested, Nicks added pin-prick harmonies.

On certain shows on the tour, the night ends with both women front and center dueting on “All Over Again,” a tune about letting go, from 1995’s Time. The song choice feels poetic, as it’s a powerful gesture of solidarity that positions Nicks and McVie as a unified front. But “All Over Again” also entirely fits with the tour’s theme. With this new lineup and renewed musical vigor, Fleetwood Mac are shedding old expectations and misconceptions, and letting other parts of their legacy shine.

FLEETWOOD MAC November 30, 8 p.m., $70-$230. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.

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