Fleetwood Mac: 5 ways the iconic band could reignite the flame
The classic rock institution that is Fleetwood Mac has embarked on its umpteenth reunion tour this spring. The band isn’t supporting a new album.
Nevertheless, despite saying never many times, they’re going back again — and again and again, with 66 arena concerts scheduled around the world this year.
It’s hard to get excited about this go-round — even for me, a lifelong Mac addict undeterred even by the “Time” album. The biggest news out of the tour so far is that the band plans to perform “Sisters of the Moon,” a 33-year-old “Tusk” track.
The last time Fleetwood Mac toured the tambourines and scarves, in 2009, singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham told me that, even after all these years, it felt like “a proving ground.” But this time, even the band doesn’t seem exactly juiced about their jaunt.
“We know we’re going to do certain songs,” namesake drummer Mick Fleetwood said in a recent online interview, “and if we don’t do them, the audience will shoot us.”
“We always have to play ‘Dreams,’ ‘Rhiannon,’ ‘Don’t Stop,’ ‘Tusk,’ ‘Big Love,’ ‘Landslide’ and all our most famous songs,” Lindsey Buckingham told Rolling Stone. “For now, I have no particular vision of what this tour is going to be.”
Actually, guys, you don’t have to.
In fact, I call upon all Fleetwood Mac fans to join me in declaring: Lindsey, Stevie, John, Mick — we release you! Whatever social-setlist contract you think exists between us is officially now and forever nullified, voided, torn asunder. You are pardoned.
Please: Play whatever you want. Forgo the hits, play the misses. Play jazz, play bluegrass. Throw out the setlist altogether. Try improvising. Try failing.
Anything but this put-upon resignation to the slavish “demands” of your fans — because, frankly, it makes us all sound like jerks.
“2013 is going to be the year of Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks told Rolling Stone.
Here are five ways the Fleetwood Mac crew could announce a tour that would actually make a dent in the absurdity of that statement and once again activate my salivary glands:
1. Record a real Fleetwood
“Say You Will,” the most recent Mac album, already is a decade old. The last new record the band actually wrote and recorded while generally in the same room with each other was “Mirage” in 1982. Since then, it’s been hijacked Buckingham solo projects (“Tango in the Night,” “Say You Will”), misfired lineups (“Behind the Mask,” “Time”) and greatest hits. The recently announced EP (due any day now) smacks of merch, not creativity.
Y’all need to hole up and jam. Not just the requisite two new songs (such as “Sad Angel” and “Miss Fantasy”), not another dredged-up B-side turned into a new A-side (“Silver Springs”), not a 37th anniversary repackage of “Rumours” — but a full studio set. If the members of this corporate board have the time for 66 unasked-for shows, you can stare at each other over a sound board again.
2. Scale it down
We get it, you’re huge. Every tour is an arena tour. The music has echoed around so much steel and concrete it’s stopped being songs and just devolved into mere momentary memory cues. Why not bring it down, focus the attention — play theaters?
Sure, you’ll boost the ticket price, but you can also loosen things up to make it worthwhile. Setlists could change up. (The play-an-entire-album trope might work here.) Unscripted banter could break out. (Maybe even a long-simmering argument.) Most of your fans could see you in the flesh, rather than on a video screen. (You’re not computer projections yet, are you?)
3. Bribe Christine
Christine McVie packed it in after the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and though she’s attended a few Mac concerts since then she hasn’t joined the band on stage. Given the tone of comments from her mates — Nicks said the chances of Christine returning to the band were equal to an asteroid collision — we understand she’s probably a write-off. Retirement from rock should be respected and, in so many cases, encouraged.
But there’s hope. First, an asteroid did nearly plow into the planet a few weeks ago. Second, McVie actually joined Fleetwood and former Mac guitarist Rick Vito (and, for some reason, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler) on stage in Maui just last February for a sporting run through “Don’t Stop,” playing keys and singing.
She’s this band’s leavening agent. Privately, you guys need her. Musically, so do we. To get just one more ridiculously great song out of her (even a “Temporary One”!), give her the moon to get her back.
4. Reboot Buckingham Nicks
The musical and certainly the personal dynamic between Buckingham and Nicks first clarified on the 1973 pre-Mac album as a duo; the “Buckingham Nicks” LP is now an industry legend, having never been reissued digitally. (Still no straight answer about why that is.) But for at least a decade now, both have been hinting at the desire to record again and tour just as the pair.
“We had already started our second Buckingham Nicks record,” Nicks reiterated in an interview last month at SXSW, describing the project that was dropped when Fleetwood Mac discovered her and then-boyfriend Buckingham and brought them into the band. Buckingham recently and repeatedly has voiced his interest in rebooting that aborted sophomore album — even saying late last year that some sessions had begun with producer Mitchell Froom.
So . . . do it already. Go even more intimate with the resulting tour (clubs!) to highlight your own unique bond. Two people, two guitars, no fuss.
5. An ‘us’ festival
Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players concert in March at SXSW was an enjoyable enough rock and roll revue, spanning generations. Nicks’ performance — dueting with Grohl and backed by the Foo Fighters — was surprisingly great. The Mac songs didn’t sound stale in a modern setting, and Nicks was more than capable of leading the bashing hard rock band with witchy panache.
So go the Ringo all-stars route — but with a larger scope and fewer track suits. Keep Grohl on board, call it Fleetwood Fighters & the Rolling Thunder Always Happens Revue! A half dozen shows across the country, on the Sound City Players model. It could be part reunion (guest turns from Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, Billy Burnette, Rick Vito, Bekka Bramlett, Dave Mason), part intergenerational parade of pals (Tom Petty, Don Henley, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Matthew Sweet), part torch-passing (Buckingham can show off his new song with Delta Rae, Best Coast can roar through their magnificent cover of “Rhiannon”), part vaudeville (I’m seeing Chevy Chase on drums for “Holiday Road”). That’s almost enough all for everyone.