By Mark Guarino
Two nights ago, when Stevie Nicks sang this lyric — “children get older/and I’m getting older too” — she did so rolling her eyes. She was a serious 27-year-old in 1975, the year her song “Landslide” appeared on the first Fleetwood Mac album she and Lindsey Buckingham debuted on together. Now at 55, the autumnal ballad has more weight than ever before and singing it at the Allstate Arena Thursday, the first of two nights, Nicks felt it.
She shouldn’t have sweat it because age was in her favor. Unlike most veteran bands weathered by their past and the escalating years, the regrouped Fleetwood Mac looked behind them with old sage vigor. Lucky for them, they are fortunate to be touring with “Say You Will” (Reprise), a new album featuring some songs actually rivaling their classics and also the most frenetic guitarwork Buckingham ever recorded.
The boomer fans filling the seats in Rosemont probably didn’t come for the new songs and the Mac didn’t try force — only six made it into the 26-song setlist. But 28 years down the road (36 for members John McVie and Mick Fleetwood), the “Rumours”-era lineup felt freshly connected to their hits. The California pop brought out the best in each player and roadtested here, the songs are obvious keepers.
Fleetwood Mac has had more makeovers than a Jenny Jones show — in fact, for the first eight years they were a breakthrough British blues rock band. Today’s incarnation is minus singer/keyboardist Christine McVie, who often served as the light touch to Nicks’ dark moods. Her bandmates compensated by deleting McVie’s songs from the setlist. Which meant less soft pop balladry and more moody rockers resurrected from years back including “Eyes of the World” from 1982, well after their golden period a decade before.
Five side players filled out the sound, but the key to lighting the night up was Buckingham. Long one of rock’s most underrated guitar players, he stopped at many points to lift the show to new levels. Without relying on a pick, Buckingham treated his instrument like a whipped puppy, slapping and wrestling it with might and style. He was the band’s most impromptu personality, dueling Nicks to a bullfight and trying to dislodge McVie from the statuary lock his feet had on the stage floor.
The ‘70s was this band’s prime and some moments wouldn’t let you forget. They included drum solos, bongo jams and, at the end of the night, a culminating drum-bongo duel. Drummer Mick Fleetwood also stepped outside his drumkit to stroll around showing off the electronic pads he fastened to his vest which let him could hit with his chest with his fingers while at the same time looking like he was swatting flies in a fit of hysteria. The bit was latched onto the very last encore and if this was the price paid for a night of healthy rejuvenation, I guess I’ll take it.