After Tusk, the band recorded a live album, two more studio albums, and made a stab at hanging on after Buckingham's angry walkout in 1987. But even by the time of 1982's Mirage, Fleetwood Mac was no longer a band. Nicks and Buckingham had released successful solo albums, and the Mac was something they squeezed between individual commitments. Tusk's urgency came from the fact that three songwriters were all battling to share the same creative outlet. By Mirage, Buckingham's creative coup d'etat had been squelched, and he sounded like the demoted factory worker he had become.
So if Fleetwood Mac was closer to a corporate brand name than a band in 1982, what hope is there for the reunited Mac in 1997? Inevitably, the band's new album and 43-city tour look like cynical, greedy attempts to prove that if the Eagles can go ice-skating in Hades, so can the Mac. Nicks argues against that theory, telling Rolling Stone's Fred Schruers: "Lindsey made a whole lot more money than everybody else did because he produces ... so he didn't have to do this for money, you know."
Thanks in part to a ridiculous number of broadcasts on MTV and VH1 (couldn't diehards just tape it?), the Mac's new live album, The Dance, has been an astounding commercial success. It debuted on the Billboard charts at number one and was still in the Top 10 almost two months after release. Of course, the album offers few surprises. The group gives "Say You Love Me" a mild countrified touch, and Buckingham wrings amazing intensity out of his solo version of "Big Love." Everything else sounds more or less as you remember it -- even the four new songs are easily mistaken for old Mac outtakes.
But it's with "Silver Springs," a twenty-year-old Nicks track held off Rumours and relegated to B-side status, that you remember why Fleetwood Mac will always move people in a way that the Eagles never could. When the re-formed Eagles did "Hotel California" or "One of These Nights," all you got was a regurgitation of a tired classic-rock warhorse. Nostalgia at its worst.
With Fleetwood Mac, you get the nostalgia, but there's something else at work too. A song like "Silver Springs," with Nicks staring down Buckingham as she sings "You'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you," takes on added meaning as these former lovers face 50. And "Landslide," Nicks's youthful confrontation with mortality, is no longer just the abstraction it was when she wrote it. Because these songs genuinely decode the Buckingham-Nicks relationship, as that relationship takes new twists and turns, the songs do the same.
Whether they like it or not, neither Buckingham nor Nicks seems artistically complete without the other. Without Buckingham as producer/arranger, Nicks is a dime-store mystic ill-equipped to put musical flesh on her song skeletons. Without Nicks as a hippie-dippie counterbalance, Buckingham doesn't seem quite as quirky or rebellious. If anything has changed in the past decade, it's that they both finally seem to have come to a realization: No matter where they go or what they do, they're trapped in this soap opera for life.
Fleetwood Mac plays Saturday, November 8, at 8:00 p.m. at the CoralSky Amphitheatre, 601 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach, 561-795-8883. Tickets are $30, $50, and $75.