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FLEETWOOD MAC DIDN'T just give a comeback concert at The Meadowlands on Tuesday. They staged a new kind of confessional theater, falling somewhere between a passion play and group therapy.

What other band would open a show reuniting the members for the first time in 15 years with a song like "The Chain," which treats long-term relationships as slavery? And who but they would chase it with a song like "Dreams," where the singer (Stevie Nicks) confronts her real ex-lover (Lindsey Buckingham) by damning him to eternal loneliness?

As the first band to discover the commercial appeal of turning your songs into saucy soap operas back in the '70s, Fleetwood Mac presaged the current tell-all tabloid age. The result helped the band's 1977 album "Rumors" sell more than 17 million copies. It also gave their live show a special intimacy or at least a special voyeurism. Yet the band hardly needed a fetish for self-exploitation to make its two-hour, 25-minute concert an involving experience.

Maximum Mac

If anything, the group's performing skills have heightened with time. To hedge their bets, they added two guitarists and a supporting percussion player. But for sheer instrumental fire, nothing could distract from group mainstay Buckingham. From his glittering filigrees in "Everywhere" to his burning solo in "I'm So Afraid," Buckingham found new melodic and rhythmic twists every way he turned. In his new acoustic arrangement of "Big Love," he borrowed from the world of classical guitar, using the precise fingerings as a poignant grounding for his wild vocals.

As a singer, Buckingham excels at the neurotic outburst, at admissions of lost control. Christine McVie makes an ideal foil, with her smoky tone and cool, British delivery. While her songs performed here from "Songbird" to the bouncy new "Temporary One" rate as the band's least emotionally consequential, they're the most melodically perfect.

That revealing Stevie

But the show's clear high points went to Nicks. She may still be clad in crinoline, shawls and platforms as high as stilts, but Nicks has shown the most vocal growth. Somehow she surmounted her native nasality to find more breadth.

In "Silver Springs," Nicks drove home the song's obsessive view of relationships through her voracious delivery. The surprise addition of her solo song "Stand Back" stopped the show. And "Landslide" found her fully coming clean, expressing fear over the aging process and the changes it brings.

At such points, Fleetwood Mac's show surged beyond soap opera to mine the stuff of real life.