Prodigal band member Christine McVie returned to the fold after 16 years — but it seemed more like seconds once she joined her voice to those of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham on Monday on the aptly named tour, ‘On With the Show.’
The members of Fleetwood Mac weren’t kidding when, more than 40 years ago, they wrote the line, “You can never break the chain.”
As with the mafia or prison gangs, allegiance to almighty Mac cannot end by anything as flimsy as choice – even if significant portions of time suggest it can.
Proof arrived Monday at The Garden when prodigal member Christine McVie returned to the fold after a long stab at retirement. Sixteen years have elapsed since the group’s declared songbird departed their ranks. But it seemed more like seconds once McVie joined her voice to those of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham on the aptly named tour, “On With the Show.”
Fittingly, the reconstituted Mac opened with “The Chain,” their 1977 ode to the promise and threat of eternal connection.
From there, the set worked in seven classic McVie songs, touchstones like “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head” that had been banished from the band’s shows for far too long.
“We have our dream girl back,” Nicks said at one point.
Lindsey Buckingham flexed his guitar god muscles in ‘I’m So Afraid,’ and his quicksilver Spanish guitar fingerings in ‘Big Love.’
McVie’s presence restored more than just repertoire and sentimentality. Her nurturing alto added a third strand to the band’s trademark harmonic weave. Together, those voices form a signature as certain as the band’s soap opera dramas and unfailing tunemanship.
At 71, McVie’s vocals exuded the same warmth she first brought to the band 44 years ago, well before Nicks and Buckingham’s presence soared them to their commercial peak. McVie’s particular sense of melody, evident in songs from under-appreciated Mac albums like 1972’s “Bare Trees,” wound up presaging the pop formalism the band would idealize on 1977’s “Rumors.”
At The Garden, McVie lent the live band a more varied dynamic, in both sound and character. In the years of her absence, the live focus fell hard on the frisson between Nicks and Buckingham. Their complex relationship — culled from a vexing mix of their personal and professional lives — became the subtext, and sometimes the text, of the shows.
The addition of McVie’s songs gave the show a lighter layer, a sweet contrast to the darker warnings housed in the Nicks/Buckingham catalogue. That became evident with the set’s second song, “You Make Loving Fun.” It offered a creamy reprieve from the pieces surrounding it — the band’s declarative “The Chain” and Nicks’ wan “Dreams.”
Much of the subsequent selection repeated Mac standards — from “Rhiannon” and “Gypsy,” for Nicks, to “Second Hand News” and “Never Going Back Again,” for Buckingham.
‘We have our dream girl back,’ Stevie Nicks (pictured) said at one point of McVie’s return.
The show also featured reliable showcases, like Nicks’ masterpiece about aging, “Landslide,” and Buckingham’s flexing of his guitar god muscles in “I’m So Afraid,” or his quicksilver Spanish guitar fingerings in “Big Love.” But the night also featured rarities, like Nicks’ “Seven Wonders.”
It would have been nice if they had sifted back into their set “Oh Well,” a piece by former member Peter Green from 1969 that they only retired in the last decade. The gesture would have gone the extra mile in making their essential point about continuity and commitment. They came close, however, by giving McVie the last word.
Her signature piece from 1977, “Songbird,” closed the night with a wholly idealized view of love. Given the nuance and complexity of the music and backstory that preceded it, the band more than deserved a final moment of unguarded love.
Fleetwood Mac plays the Garden Tuesday.
1. The Chain
2. You Make Loving Fun
4. Second Hand News
7. I Know I’m Not Wrong
9. Sisters of the Moon
10. Say You Love Me
11. Seven Wonders
12. Big Love
14. Never Going Back Again
15. Over My Head
17. Little Lies
18. Gold Dust Woman
19. I’m So Afraid
20. Go Your Own Way
1. World Turning
2. Don’t Stop
3. Silver Springs
New York Daily News / Tuesday, October 7, 2014