BY MARK GUARINO l Chicago Sun-Times
The grab-n-go revenue stream of aging rock bands is the greatest-hits tour. You spend the first half of your life creating groundbreaking hits; then you spend the second half performing them each time a new wife requests alimony or Bernie Madoff made off with your fortune.
Fleetwood Mac’s current revival on the tour circuit has those hallmarks — it is the Anglo-American band’s first since 2003, when core members Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood reunited for a new album that was surprisingly very good.
Their return is not featuring any of those songs, only hits from their blockbuster albums of late 1970s: “Tusk,” “Rumours” and “Fleetwood Mac.” Thursday night at the Allstate Arena, the first of two consecutive nights, Buckingham admitted there was “no new album — yet” and the two-hour show would concentrate on “things we love and hopefully stuff that you love, as well.”
It was a love affair to last. Unlike most outings like these, the band steered through its hits with interest that went well beyond professional courtesy. While the last tour was more like a revue, with secondary players crowding out the band, this outing was nicely subdued, with even the clownish Fleetwood kept in check.
Forty-one years past its earliest incarnation, the band wisely chose not to dwell on the same old references. Instead, it let the body of work stand on its own ground. At 60, Nicks is at an age where her voice is robust and layered with lovely textures; she sang “Landslide,” as a blues song, tarnished but with strength.
She and Buckingham sang lead vocals together on many songs, harmonized sweetly on others, but made the unfortunate decision to trade vocals on “Say You Love Me.” Their reconstruction did not suit their voices, and the interchange was strained.
The night belonged to Buckingham, who injected paranoid intensity into every guitar lick, whoop, holler, growl and foot stomp. His peers may have been knighted early in their careers for their guitar flash and mastery, but at age 60, Buckingham has emerged as the only one who still carries it forward with sparkle and commitment.
He elevated even his own revenue generators when the night’s highlight became a pairing of the band’s lesser-known songs: “Oh Well” and “I’m So Afraid.” Played back-to-back, they built into an emotional purging of volume and odd detouring. As Buckingham stalked the width of the stage, he injected an edge-of-cliff abandon into his playing, yet maintained a remarkable technique.
Near the end, his body worked in convulsion over his instrument until he stopped to skip back to his spot — a concluding image that was peculiar but well-deserved.
Mark Guarino is a Chicago-based journalist. Visit mark-guarino.com.