Concert Review: Fleetwood Mac Goes Their Own Way

Fleetwood Mac played to a sold-out Rose Garden in Portland on Sunday night showcasing their hits and some deep album cuts in what’s more or less a 35th anniversary tour of the release of Rumours.

The 23-song set, including eight from the seminal album, felt cumbersome at times and even dragged at points during several moments. However, the highlights certainly carried the evening that lasted more than 2 ½ hours and proved why 35 years after Rumours, the band carries on today nearly as strong as ever.

The set opened with what should have been a rousing “Second Hand News” but it got bogged down with the treble levels a little too hot. The first few bars were nearly unrecognizable. The sound issue did not get fixed until “Sara” – nine songs in. Crowd favorite “The Chain” second up on the night, failed to impress and felt like a sound check performance. “Rhiannon” didn’t fare much better but the band segued into a decent jam that got the night rolling.

Four songs from the follow-up to Rumours, 1979’s Tusk got the nod. Introduced by singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham as an album probably not regarded as very funny by record executives, it clearly shows the band trying to do something different with “Not That Funny” and the title track, which sounds like an African tribe dance, but neither song radio friendly nor really car friendly.

Funny enough, both songs worked quite well live as did the new song “Sad Angel” off the band’s recent EP. “Sad Angel” has a great beat and rhythm but the studio version is detracted by Buckingham’s almost loud whisper of a vocal which thankfully was not duplicated on stage.

The legendary Stevie Nicks looked stunning wearing all black and at 65 manages to look barely 50. The only indication of her age was when she skipped the higher notes most notably on “Dreams” and Rhiannon.” But that soprano? It doesn’t come more beautiful than that. Her acoustic duet with Buckingham on “Landslide” was itself worth the price of admission. The two continued with “Never Going Back Again” showing exactly why Rumours is one of the best-selling albums of all-time.

Fleetwood Mac doesn’t give hard-charging power chords or complexly arranged songs with variable time signatures which in a live setting may explain some of the tedium. Great listens while relaxing at home but in the context of a live show some of the songs came across flat.  “Gold Dust Woman” felt tiresome which was followed by the lethargic “I’m So Afraid” – until Buckingham closed with some blistering solo work. “Go Your Own Way” which ended the first set was borderline butchered and “World Turning,” opening the first encore, featured a less than magical drum solo by  Mick Fleetwood that felt more like he was getting his bearings.

Despite that, Buckingham took on “Big Love” without any support and surpassed the album cut. “Don’t Stop” was flawless and Nicks was solid on “Stand Back” from her solo album The Wild Heart. Nicks’ performance on “Silver Springs” and set closer “Say Goodbye” left you wanting for more.

The stage show, save a large screen in the back, was virtually non-existent and Nicks did herself no favors trying to perform on four-inch heels. Her spinning act was reduced to a few slow circles and at times she looked arthritic trying to get around on the things. Buckingham looked no worse for the wear. He’s not an overly technical guitar player but he employs a unique multi finger-flickering that somehow produces melodious and articulate sounds even though it looks like he’s just strumming.

Backing up the band included a second guitarist and percussionist, a keyboardist and two background vocals. Notably absent was Christine McVie, who retired from touring in 1998, limiting the band from playing the more pop-oriented songs like “Everywhere” and “Hold Me.”

Fleetwood Mac Portland Setlist (Rose Garden):

1. Second Hand News
2. The Chain
3. Dreams
4. Sad Angel
5. Rhiannon
6. Not That Funny
7. Tusk
8. Sisters of the Moon
9. Sara
10. Big Love
11. Landslide
12. Never Going Back Again
13. Without You
14. Gypsy
15. Eyes of the World
16. Gold Dust Woman
17. I’m So Afraid
18. Stand Back
19. Go Your Own Way
20. World Turning
21. Don’t Stop
22. Silver Springs
23. Say Goodbye