Fleetwood Mac’s Sydney show was a touching celebration of their legacy and longevity
There aren’t many bands in the world with a history and legend as colourful as Fleetwood Mac.
For over 50 years, we’ve listened and watched in rapt attention as they weathered love, break-ups, infighting, drug addictions, and loss in the public arena — pouring it all into songs that defined multiple generations.
It’s not like these years are long behind them either — last year’s news that longtime guitarist and songwriter Lindsey Buckingham had been unceremoniously booted from the line-up didn’t come so much as a surprise as it just felt like Fleetwood being Fleetwood. As writer David James Young described for Junkee at the time, there are three certainties in life: death, taxes, and some sort of drama in the Fleetwood Mac camp.
The decision to replace Buckingham — an unenviable task, given his towering presence within the band and on-stage — with both Neil Finn and Tom Petty and Heartbreakers’ guitarist Mike Campbell was inspired. Throughout the lengthy show at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena (their 65th of their current tour) they don’t harshly impose on the chemistry of the original members, and Campbell’s dynamic and ferocious guitar playing is one of the highlights of the evening.
Finn, particularly, looked like he was having the time of his life, beaming and flicking his silver hair across his face. It’s clear the crowd are happy to see him too — he arguably gets a bigger roar then any of the original Fleetwood members when he’s introduced. A homegrown (well, close enough) boy done good.
“Remember, you’re out of the inner city now, so that means you can have a good time. You can drink and dance as much as you like,” Finn told the Sydney crowd halfway through the show, ribbing the city’s scorned lockout laws. “You know you want to.”
Indeed, one of the highlights of the night comes not from a Fleetwood track, but from the Crowded House catalogue. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is gifted to a sea of waving phone lights and singing audience members (one punter near me was overwhelmed from the off, shouting “Oh FUCK!” the moment Finn opened his mouth).
As for the original band members, they are clearly still relishing the opportunity to be on-stage. Mick Fleetwood is relentlessly energetic, whether he’s slamming down the first kick drum of opener “The Chain,” or grabbing a bongo and leading the audience through his 15-minute drum solo. Christine McVie and John McVie are more restrained, the former’s voice a little rattled from the long years, but she nonetheless strongly leads the charge through crowd favourites “Say You Love Me” and “Everywhere.”
A MILLION COVER BANDS CAN TRY — BUT THERE’S A MAGIC TO THESE SONGS BEING WIELDED BY THEIR WRITERS THAT IS SIMPLY UNTOUCHABLE.
And, of course, there is Stevie Nicks. Dressed, as usual, in all black and a shawl, clutching her tambourine, her magnetism is palpable, and though she noticeably avoids any of the high notes she could hit back in the day, it doesn’t matter. Her voice rolls out richly across the arena during tear-jerking classics like “Dreams” and “Rhiannon,” and she transcends during “Gold Dust Woman,” twisting in the gold light.
There’s a certain mental dislocation in witnessing these songs played live. Like first glimpsing a landmark you’ve seen depicted in thousands of films and on postcards, the cadences and lyrics are so etched within your brain that finally hearing them delivered by their creators is almost disorienting. A million cover bands can try — but there’s a magic to these songs being wielded by their writers that is simply untouchable.
Two moments in particular bottled the magic: the chill-inducing “Landslide,” delivered acoustically by Nicks and Finn right after “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” and the Tom Petty tribute “Free Fallin’,” set against a slideshow of Petty’s life in photos. Even the notoriously terrible “Don’t Stop” — which has to be, if not the worst recorded song of all time, then certainly the worst Fleetwood Mac song — is elevated in the celebratory surroundings.
“Take care of yourselves,” Mick Fleetwood says as parting words after a long standing ovation. “And take care of each other, and thank you for allowing us to keep doing this.”
The pleasure is all ours.
All photos courtesy of Dean Hammer (@deanhammer)
Jules LeFevre / Junkee / August 16, 2019