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The Daily Telegraph, March 4, 2004

HEADLINE: When old friends get mac together



Any musician who has survived the fickle fortunes of the music business rarely wants to revisit their past.

They want to point to their new endeavours, opine at length about their relevance and whinge about having to play the hits.

But not Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who are spending a day in the Sydney Intercontinental quiet happily revisiting the past as they embark on their band Fleetwood Mac's first Australian tour in 14 years.

As the Californian supergroup continues to perform in front of capacity audiences around the world on the Say You Will tour, one of rock's most famous musical couples head straight back to Rumours.

And why wouldn't you? Fertile with the drama of broken relationships, the folk-rock masterpiece went on to sell gazillions of copies around the world and establish Fleetwood Mac as an "elite" band, as Nicks refers to them.

"The Rolling Stones, The Eagles ... there's only a few of us left," Nicks says. "We would give it up tomorrow if it wasn't fun ... many of the big elite bands have given up."

Buckingham adds: "I would say we are just lucky to be one of those bands who can take long leaves of absence and still have people interested.

"So much of what we did transcended the music itself and I think the fans actually cared about us as people.

"It's happening in the shows where you can see them looking at you in the first few songs, seeing what the interaction between us is like."

That curiosity is being rewarded generously by the band who unashamedly deliver many of the hits that made them legendary, from Go Your Own Way to Tusk.

They are pragmatic about their audience's expectations on this tour, despite the fact they have a new album to peddle.

Songs from Say You Will do get a look-in during the current shows but fans can be assured there are plenty of hits.

"You can only ask people to get to know and like so much new material," Nicks says. "We know we could probably play the whole Rumours album and the fans would love it. When I'm performing those songs, I try to summon back the original meanings, what I was feeling when I wrote it.

"That does make it easier to sing something you may not have performed in 35 years."

Going back to those days doesn't seem to stir up the kind of acrimony, which fuelled the songs on Rumours and continued to shadow the band for years afterwards.

Most of you know the story well by now.

Before the modern classic launched Fleetwood Mac to "elite" status in 1977, Buckingham and Nicks were a couple on and off stage, as were John and Christine McVie.

How Mick Fleetwood handled all this marital angst defies logic. But time passing seems to have given both Nicks and Buckingham a more tender perspective of the period and a fondness for the songs which resulted.

"I think getting to the other side of all of that and getting on with our lives gave us the clarity to see these songs with a bit or irony and a bit of tenderness," Buckingham says.

Stevie adds: "There wasn't so much tenderness when the album was written. But I think it is heartfelt now."

There is also a prevailing sense of fun for Fleetwood Mac about this tour, even with Christine McVie missing, having decided to stay off the road. Nicks certainly could bid the band a permanent farewell having established a solid solo career, which is now drawing her kudos from younger peers from Sheryl Crow to Destiny's Child.

"Our music keeps it fun; it always makes it exciting," she says. "You can't walk away from this music. I have a solo career but I don't think I am ever going to generate that level of excitement by myself.

"The very fact there are four people up there [is what makes it so good]." Buckingham agrees that the songs transcend any differences or any fears the members would have about their "relevance" or ability to still to cut it in the world's big venues.

"You do this long enough and the feelings about why you got into it in the first place, the idealism of it, tends to become numbed," he says. "There is a certain religious quality to it, that music can make a difference.

"When people start to think about it as something they can do for income ... the audience sees right through that."

Even with the absence of Christine McVie, the remaining band members insist this latest incarnation of Fleetwood Mac is the best it's ever been.

And there have been so many incarnations, even before the duo of Nicks and Buckingham joined the band in the mid 1970s after struggling to find work as a duo.

Seeing them back on stage together for the first time since Buckingham quit the band 14 years ago is pretty special.

And they know it.

"No-one else is doing what we're doing in the context of this band, me and Lindsey singing together again like we did when we first joined," Nicks says.

"We were in the studio last week and met Vanessa Carlton who was in there with her boyfriend Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind) who were working on some songs together.

"And it reminded me of what Lindsay and I were doing 30 years ago, it really was like looking in a mirror.

"That got me excited because the music industry is dying," she declares.

"And there will be nothing new to play except classic hits if the business doesn't start nurturing these kind of songwriters and singers, people who have important things to say and can do it in a way that affects people."

Which brings us to Say You Will, a classic Fleetwood Mac album soundwise but a departure all the same for its inclusion of a couple of strong social commentaries.

Buckingham and Nicks seem almost desperate to undersell the relevance of stunning pieces like What's The World Coming To, Peacekeeper and Illume.

"I don't think events like 9/11 directly influenced this album because we were holed up in a house in Beverly Hills and for six days a week, we just concentrated on making music.

Buckingham added: "What the World was written before September 11 ... it was just a coincidence."

fleetwood mac play the sydney entertainment centre tonight, saturday and sunday