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Parry Gettelman, Sentinel Popular Music Critic
Fleetwood Mac has long been a staple of soft-rock radio. Live, however, you wouldn't call it a soft-rock band. At the Orlando Arena Sunday night, the recently reunited group was just as remarkable for its rhythmic power as for its impeccable pop craftsmanship.

Not for nothing is this band named after drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, who founded the group with maniacally brilliant blues guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer in 1967. Although the group's more recent incarnations have emphasized gorgeous vocals, memorable melodies and intricate arrangements on their recordings, Fleetwood and McVie are still a fearsome rhythm section.

****************** CORRECTION PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 12, 1997 *******************
Because of a reporter's error, the title of Christine McVie's ''Songbird'' was incorrectly listed as ''For You'' in the Fleetwood Mac review in Tuesday's Living section.


The two have been playing together so long, they seem to draw from a single energy source. When other band members drifted back toward the drum riser, or toward McVie's station next to it, they appeared to get an extra jolt themselves. Versatile guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, in particular, tapped into the power flow at regular intervals. One of the show's highlights was a fierce Fleetwood-Buckingham duo in the course of Buckingham's ''So Afraid.''

In the audience, you could feel McVie's bass in your chest. Fleetwood's drumming was so elemental, it felt as if his kick drum had taken over direction of your heart's systole and diastole. And Fleetwood, in particular, subtly shaped the songs as well as drove them.

The arrangements for hits such as ''The Chain,'' ''Dreams,'' ''Don't Stop,'' ''Gold Dust Woman,'' ''Rhiannon'' and ''You Make Loving Fun'' were pretty close to the recorded versions. (The group brought along two female backup singers, a guitarist-vocalist, a guitarist-keyboardist and a percussionist to fill out its sound.) Still, Fleetwood and McVie gave everything a spontaneity and intensity that ensured the music evoked more than mere nostalgia.

Buckingham, singer-keyboardist Christine McVie and singer Stevie Nicks also seemed determined to invest the songs with fresh emotion. Buckingham sang and played with intensity on ''Go Insane'' as well as his new ''My Little Demon'' and ''Bleed to Love Her.'' McVie dedicated a gorgeous solo version of ''For You'' to her beloved brother, and as she accompanied herself on the piano, she might have been expressing her affection to him across her own living room.

Nicks has found even deeper meaning in ''Landslide'' over the years. Her phrasing was most affecting, and she didn't bother to suppress a wry smile every time she sang the line ''I'm getting older too.'' The years have, indeed, cost her some of the upper range of her voice. However, it actually seemed to grow stronger as the night went on, and its husky tone is as appealing as ever.

The band, touring together for the first time in 15 years, didn't go out of its way to project an image of camaraderie. However, the chemistry was obvious. No one in the full house can have doubted Buckingham when he said, almost humbly, ''We're all very thrilled with the way this project has unfolded.''

It remains to be seen whether this lineup will stay together after the tour to make another studio album. But if the band members are as inspired to write as they are to play together, it would surely be a worthwhile endeavor.