Last night, four members of the Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac played the Rose Garden, offering their biggest hits and some (relative) obscurities as well. It was a great show that didn't ever feel like a routine retread through past glories—the band was fired up and totally engaged for over two and a half hours. They opened with perhaps the greatest one-two-three punch a band could ever pull off: "Second Hand News," "The Chain," and "Dreams," wasting no time whatsoever in getting to the hits.
Lindsey Buckingham held down stage left, almost overly eager to prove his guitar ability. He shredded all night long, with highlights in his now-mandatory solo rendition of "Big Love," and the lengthy face-melting solo during "I'm So Afraid." He whooped and barked at the crowd, as animated as a man without have an eightball shoved up his nose could possibly be. (Oh, wait...) He played to the back row, as if he still had something to prove—when Buckingham's magnum opus Tusk met with some resistance in 1979, it must have put a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, which he still seems to be working out.
Stevie Nicks, meanwhile, was the soul of the show, departing the stage for the numbers that weren't hers but providing a great visual focal point while she was onstage. Dressed in her trademark black chiffon skirt and an array of shawls, she looked amazing and sounded excellent, even as she elected not to reach the high notes in "Dreams" or "Rhiannon."
Mick Fleetwood, meanwhile, was the madman behind the skins. His drumming style is unmistakable on record, but it's even more so with the added visual counterpoint. He performed a lengthy drum solo during "World Turning" with a headset mic on, yelling gibberish at the crowd as his four limbs went collectively nuts. I'd always thought that Animal from the Muppets was based on Keith Moon, but now I see that Jim Henson probably had Mick Fleetwood in mind. His counterpart and longtime partner-in-crime, John McVie, calmly held down the bass notes without flash or pizzazz—the eye of the hurricane, as they say. I've heard some people talk down Fleetwood and McVie's role in the band, saying that they're ultimately inessential, or that Fleetwood Mac is actually a series of bands without a common thread. This is flat-out wrong: Fleetwood and McVie are the absolute cornerstones of the band, from whatever era. There would not be a single iteration of Fleetwood Mac without these two, and to overlook their contributions in any serious discussion about the band's music is pretty inexcusable.
But enough about who's responsible for what: The four present and accounted-for members of Fleetwood Mac performed as an entirely united band, and one with a remarkable stylistic range at that. There were two new songs—"Sad Angel" and "Without You," both from their recent Extended Play EP—that fit in perfectly well with the older songs. "Without You" was preceded by a very lengthy preamble from Nicks, who told the story of how the song was recorded in the early '70s when she and Buckingham were still performing as Buckingham Nicks, and later was recovered from a stolen cassette and posted on YouTube. The way she told it, it became a very long story, but Nicks was pretty charming about the whole thing: "See, this is why you don't really want to know me," she joked mid-ramble, as 15,000 people ached to really know her.
It actually was a pretty chatty show, all in all. McVie didn't say a word, but the other three members all took their turns orating at length into the mic. Buckingham's first extended monologue came before a mini-set of Tusk songs early in the show (which included "Not That Funny," a bonkers "Tusk" with the USC Marching Band projected on the screen, "Sara," and "Sisters of the Moon"). It seems he still feels the sting that the record received upon its original release, and is gratified by its critical rehabilitation in recent years. He also talked about the way "Big Love" has shifted in meaning for him since he wrote it. Nicks, in addition to her long "Without You" story, also spoke to the crowd for a few minutes after the band had already finished its last song and left the stage. She called everyone in the audience the "dreamcatchers" for the band's dreams—ie, their songs. It was pretty charming and very Stevie. Fleetwood, not to be outdone, ran out when she was through and similarly spoke to the audience for a few minutes at the very end of the show. He said some incomprehensible stuff in a British accent, played with a red top hat, and also expressed genuine gratitude.
Indeed, the band, with the possible exception of poker-faced McVie (who was the coolest guy in the room last night), seemed altogether amazed and pleased to still be around. Whatever issues between the individual members are so deeply ingrained and sanded over that they now work as part of the permanent chemistry. Nicks and Buckingham made a point of holding hands during each one of their entries and exits—I think that is something they do at every show, but it's totally effective from a dramatic standpoint. "Landslide" seemed to be the crowd favorite, but I also thought "Eyes of the World" and a very long, jammy "Gold Dust Woman" were notable highlights as well.
Minus Christine McVie, which had its upsides and downsides—no "You Make Loving Fun," thank god, but also no "Hold Me"; we still got an encore rendition of "Don't Stop"—it was pretty much everything you'd want from a Fleetwood Mac show in 2013. I don't think anyone in the surprisingly mixed crowd (lots of young fans came out, too, some of whom were no doubt born after Tango in the Night came out) left the Rose Garden wanting. If it at times felt workmanlike, it also felt 100 percent sincere.