It’s been nearly 38 years since Fleetwood Mac appeared in Miami with Christine McVie, whose smooth vocals and strident keyboards were so essential to the sound of this legendary rock band.
That last Magic City show starring all five members of the group's classic lineup was at the long-gone Miami Stadium for megahit album Rumours. Now, all these decades later, the quintet is back together and still playing many songs off that 1977 record for its On With the Show tour.
So, needless to say, it was a historic reunion the other night at the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami. And thankfully, for many latecomers, Fleetwood Mac hit the stage on Miami time, around 25 minutes past 8 p.m., though thousands were still scrambling to their seats after the band kicked off the show with “The Chain.”
On paper, the song — which equally features the band’s trio of singers: McVie, Stevie Nicks, and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham — was a great choice. Though the voices of McVie and Buckingham have clearly been roughened by time, Nicks’ raspy vocals have only improved with age. But the most egregious problem with the opener came from the its steady, deliberate beat, through no fault of drummer Mick Fleetwood. It was potently played, but an annoying echo bounced down from the upper level of the arena following each lick of the drum kit.
Much of Fleetwood Mac's charm is its knack for creating an enveloping sense of intimacy. And though it’s unrealistic to expect this hit machine to play a small theater with proper acoustics, that would be the ideal setting for a band mostly defined by smooth, dreamy songs featuring distinctive voices. But if there is one thing that can fill an arena besides hits, it is charisma, and this band has that to spare.
After “The Chain,” Nicks played up McVie’s return to the Fleetwood Mac fold, which, after her departure in 1998, was something hardly anyone expected to see again. She noted the Miami show marked their 67th performance with McVie since she decided to rejoin the group last year. “I feel there are all kinds of things she could say, but I won't go into that,” said Nicks in a clear reference to the band members' tumultuous relationship. Later, McVie said, “On a personal note I'd like to thank John [McVie, her former husband and the band’s bassist], Mick, Stevie, and Lindsey for letting me do this again.”
Throughout the show, one of the most interesting things was how the band members played with their history and the personal stories that inspired the songs. “I think it's fair to say we are a group of individuals and a band that's seen its ups and downs,” Buckingham offered later that night. “We have been able to evolve but also prevail in the good and bad times.”
Though supplemented by a trio of backing singers, as well as an extra keyboardist and guitarist, the band's most compelling numbers of the night came about when Buckingham picked up an acoustic guitar. Alone on stage, he again brought up Fleetwood Mac’s history before playing a spare yet energetic version of “Big Love.”
“We lived our lives the way we thought we were supposed to,” he said before noting the significance of the single off the group’s 1987 album, Tango In the Night, which was Buckingham’s last album with Fleetwood Mac before he “took leave.” He mentioned that the lyrics of the song have evolved in meaning for him over the years. “It began as a contemplation on alienation, but it became about the power and importance of change," he said.
He then broke into a spirited version of the song, lashing at the nylon strings of the acoustic in his distinctive style of flicking downward on the instrument. Stripping "Big Love" of all of its embellishments, he was able to highlight the lyrics and even enhance the song’s energy. This was the first of a trio of acoustic songs that would be the evening’s highlights. After the song, Buckingham got the night’s second standing ovation. (The first was for a spirited version of the 1979 single “Tusk,” with the marching band part coming from a backing track enhanced by a giant screen projecting images of the ‘70s-era marching band.)
Then Nicks, who was Buckingham’s girlfriend when he joined the group, came out for the next song. She was one of the night’s chattiest members. “This song is my dad’s favorite song, and he said he thought I wrote it about it him,” she offered. “I didn't, but I wanted to mention that because it brings him closer.” After three other dedications, she offered the song’s title: “This song is called ‘Landslide,’” and Buckingham played that familiar, sad, rambling guitar line. It was a beautiful moment capped off with the couple holding each other's hands to another standing ovation.
“Every place that that's been played there has been snow,” Nicks said, whose emphasis on “snoooow” in the lyrics got nary a notice from the Miami crowd. “Real snow. Not here.”
Indeed, Miami could have responded to the band with more enthusiasm. There was an almost collective zoning out during a pair of extended songs — “Gold Dust Woman” and “I'm So Afraid” — featuring indulgent but potent solos. Of course, they were a pair of challenging, slow-burning deep cuts from the earliest years of this lineup that appeared toward the end of a nearly two-hour set. So sleepy fans can be forgiven, and it was a relief to some when the band delivered an enthusiastic “Go Your Own Way" afterward. Buckingham, who gave the most energy that night, sometimes letting out primal roars instead of words, played an epic guitar solo and even bent over to the front row, allowing fingers to reach up from the pit to play on his fretboard at the hit single's conclusion.
Even Mick Fleetwood had his own moment to interact with the crowd from his epic kit, which featured an impressive array of cymbals, two of the longest rows of chimes you will ever see, and a giant gong. During the night’s encore, which kicked off with “World Turning,” the rest of the group wandered off as Fleetwood pounded through a lengthy solo and inspired a call-and-response with the crowd. “Goodness gracious me,” said the drummer. “One thing is for sure, much fun was had by all tonight.” Then the full band came back to play a rollicking version of “Don't Stop.”
It had already been a long, lovely evening, and though many in the audience began trickling out to beat traffic as Fleetwood Mac played a perky version of “Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac was not done. The five reunited members offered a wonderful version of “Silver Springs” to end the night. It’s rare for a band that began in the late ‘60s and had high points in both the ‘70s and ‘80s to be able to draw an arena-size crowd so many years later.
Fleetwood Mac can still bring it. It was a mythic, historical moment this past Saturday night. And who knows if Miami will ever get one like it again.
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Fleetwood Mac's Setlist
-"You Make Loving Fun"
-"Second Hand News"
-"I Know I'm Not Wrong"
-"Sisters of the Moon"
-"Say You Love Me"
-"Big Love" (Acoustic)
-"Never Going Back Again" (Acoustic)
-"Over My Head"
-"Gold Dust Woman"
-"I'm So Afraid"
-"Go Your Own Way"
-"World Turning" (Featuring Mick Fleetwood drum solo)