Fleetwood Mac rolled into the Oakland Arena on December 3, 2014. The headline for this tour is “On With The Show” featuring the return of Christine McVie – singer, songwriter and keyboard player who left the band to retire some 16 years ago. The audience greeted her with rapturous applause, and after the opening track “The Chain” the band launched directly into one of her best, “You Make Loving Fun.” It was wonderful to hear the band whole again, back to their 1975 lineup, which endured for so many years producing mega hits on the albums “Fleetwood Mac” (1975) through Tango in the Night (1987).
For their set list, the band focused on their hits, which has been the norm for the last several tours. As such, the addition of Christine’s tracks “You Make Loving Fun,” “Everywhere,” “Say You Love Me,” “Over My Head,” “Little Lies,” and as the second encore, a beautiful rendition of “Songbird,” with her on grand piano, front and center, helped to freshen the set list.
The rest of the song selections alternated between Stevie and Lindsey’s lead vocal tracks, all of which they have been featuring since 1998. My only wish would be for the band to pull out some more rare tracks, such as “Warm Ways,” “I Don’t Want to Know” or one of Christine’s tracks from Tusk, particularly “Brown Eyes.” I half expected they might pull out “Hypnotized” to pay tribute to Bob Welch who passed away in 2012, but not so. Having said all that, it’s understandable that they focused on their most reliable hits and crowd pleasers, now that they are five once more.
The lighting and staging for the show was top notch – the latest in movable screen panels and track lighting used to enrich the events on stage. The main feature was the huge hi-def projection system that filled the screen behind the risers, used for imagery that matched and accentuated the songs, and then also used for closed circuit video of the band in performance. This was particularly effective in capturing the band member’s skills and techniques with live close-ups of their playing.
And what a musical, lyrical performance it was. Lindsey was in top form with his amazing, dexterous fingerpicking style, the likes of which I’ve never seen from any other rock guitarist. Perennial favorites including the explosive acoustic guitar on “Big Love” or the rockin’ blues attack on “I’m So Afraid” fully displayed his remarkable skills and pliant voice. Stevie sounded as good as I’ve heard her, nailing classics like “Sisters of the Moon” and “Landslide” whether the phrase was soft or forceful. Christine sounded great and again made a big difference in the overall sound. Her backing vocals were also quite noticeable on the other songs that featured one of her band mates on lead vocals.
What was really noticeable was how personable the band members were. Time was taken between tracks for some fun stories – the longest being Stevie’s intro to “Gypsy” during which she encouraged the audience to follow their dreams. She talked about how she and Lindsey got their start in the bay area, poor but working hard, and described the San Francisco shop “Velvet Underground” with it’s beautiful painted floor and stacks of rock frocks, where all the stars of the era like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and others shopped for their stage clothing. The already potent lyrics were made more meaningful by the intro:
So I’m back to the velvet underground
Back to the floor that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was to the gypsy that I was
This is the stuff from which great live shows are made, and we got a bit from Christine and Lindsay as well, and at the end of the show receiving another heartfelt sendoff from Stevie and a final farewell from drummer Mick Fleetwood with his characteristic “The Mac is Back!” Indeed, they are.