Christine McVie always performed stage right with Fleetwood Mac, though she was never a side player. The keyboardist wrote a good number of the band’s hits back in the day and took the position of lead singer whenever they came into rotation.
More than that, she was the supergroup’s third leg. Lindsey Buckingham was the rocker, Stevie Nicks the spiritual siren and McVie the pop songstress who brought a head-bopping bounce to the band’s sound with numbers like “You Make Loving Fun.” That combination gave Fleetwood Mac something for every prevailing taste in the 1970s and pushed it to the top of the charts.
And so when Christine McVie returned to the band after a 17-year vacation this fall, she brought not just her 71-year-old self, but also a little more easy-going fun. Fleetwood Mac’s appearance at the Pepsi Center in Denver Friday night felt much more like a pop concert than the raucous rock show it performed there in 2013.
Buckingham still did his high-jumps during “Big Love” and tortured his guitar until it screamed during “Tusk.” Nicks still growled through “Rhiannon” and danced and twirled in a sparkly shawl for “Gold Dust Woman.”
But there was also McVie, leaning into her mike and dropping those famously moony vocals on “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me.” She took center stage for “Everywhere” and delivered the song’s happy, little trademark “boops” at the end with precision.
For the band, and the virtually sold-out crowd, it felt like home. There was McVie in her skin tight black jeans, Buckingham in his leather jacket, Nicks in her multiple layers of skirts and coats and those fingerless lace gloves. In the background, Mick Fleetwood banged his drums too hard like he has for four decades and John McVie plucked away on bass nearly invisible, except for a bright red vest. This was Fleetwood Mac as it was meant to be; the group, fully formed, that sold 100 million albums.
That not to say it was all nostalgia. The ensemble sounded tight and all the players brought what they had to. Nicks, who can have difficult nights, started strong and stayed relaxed. McVie lived up to the hype of her return, which was mentioned non-stop during the show. She was never the frantic type and that suits her well in her advanced years. Late in the game, the energy slowed, but that happens to a lot of bands on the 30th stop of a tour that offers few real breaks for musicians.
There were times when the proceedings felt programmed. The song list wasn’t all that different from June 2013 and neither were the renditions. The set and lights see med like an afterthought, with a series of distracting shapes projected through the giant monitor backstage — swirling bubbles, seashells and planets that looked more like screen savers for a home computer than the backdrop of an arena show.
But, of course, there was plenty to look without all that: Three of the world’s biggest music stars, trading off their best material. There wasn’t a huge amount of lovey dovey stuff between them, just a few sideways glances and one cute wink from Stevie to Christine during “Say You Love Me.”
They were co-workers whose best team was back together, with McVie stage right once again. They gave her the closer, leaving her alone with a spotlight for a gentle take on “Songbird.” She sounded comfortable to be back, and the fans, with their phones lit in a bright ovation, seems pleased as well.
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Ray Mark Rinaldi is a Arts and Entertainment writer and critic at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Daniel Petty is a Denver-based photographer and digital director of sports at The Denver Post.
Ray Mark Rinaldi / Reverb / December 13th, 2014