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Buffalo News (NY)Section: LIFESTYLES
MARY KUNZ - News Staff
When Fleetwood Mac pulled into Marine Midland Arena on Sunday, the place was packed to the heights. And many fans had to be wondering, however secretly: How are the musicians getting along, anyway?

It's such a mess, with two pairs of exes: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie . Also, wasn't Nicks once involved, improbably, with drummer Mick Fleetwood? As one fan said, "Toward the end, they were all mixed up."

Buckingham must have figured we were curious about the current state of affairs, because he couldn't help teasing us a little. At the end of an emotional "The Dance," he walked up behind Nicks, who turned around to face him. They stared at each other, then Buckingham put his face close to Nicks' and mimed a kiss. The crowd roared.

But they weren't kissing! I was close enough to see. Why fake it? Why stage it in the first place? These are things to ponder.

Yes, Fleetwood Mac may be fractured -- the band members seemed frankly chilly toward each other, and moments of intimate, out-of-the-spotlight clowning were few. But in some ways age has been kind to the group.

At 49, Nicks has kept her looks, give or take 20 pounds. She wears the extra weight well -- it makes her seem friendly and motherly, less aloof. Twirling, smiling, shaking her tambourine with its silvery streamers, she still seems at home singing "Gypsy."

Buckingham is the same consummate musician he has always been. From mile-a-minute quiet guitar plucking to raise-the-roof screaming, he shows formidable skill.

Unlike other veteran bands, Fleetwood Mac isn't afraid to stray from their songs' studio versions. They proved that right off with "The Chain," which had vocal inflections and instrumental touches different from the record.

An exuberant "Say That You Love Me" featured Buckingham on banjo, and a thundering "Tusk" drew listeners to their feet. In "Gold Dust Woman," Nicks donned a gold cloak and threw herself into her trademark twirling.

The band was generous with ballads. Buckingham sang a tender "Bleed to Love Her," as lighters glowed. Nicks sang "Landslide" to his solo accompaniment. She turned to place her hand on his shoulder, but the guitarist, standing behind her, remained considerate but remote.

Buckingham's standard pose -- tense-faced, feet together -- makes it all the more impressive when he goes overboard. There was simply no topping, for instance, his cathartic outburst in "I'm So Afraid." Head thrown back, mouth wide open, Buckingham stood pouring out blues riffs and tense sets of triplets. Things built up gradually, in tension and volume. Then, as people screamed, he left his mike, did a loose goose-step in a circle a few times and skedaddled back, skipping on one foot, playing and howling all the way. Finally, with a tortured grimace, he flung off his guitar. The arena went crazy.

He brought immense concentration to his solo song "Go Insane," and Nicks brought similar passion to "Silver Springs" and "Rhiannon." Between Buckingham and Nicks -- well, they could have sent the rest of the band home, and I would have been happy.

The concert lost momentum with a long percussion solo, as Mick Fleetwood walked the stage, pounding his chest to produce electronic drum effects. It was a crashing bore, literally. (And as Fleetwood yelled, he kept showering the crowd with spit. Pity the front row.)

But the encores made everybody emerge happy: "Go Your Own Way," "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," "Over and Over" (a Christine McVie showpiece) and "Farmer's Daughter."

And, toward the end of the concert, it seemed Nicks and Buckingham were spending a lot of time hand in hand.

What is going on? As was always the case with Fleetwood Mac, it's anybody's guess.