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Boston Globe Online-- September 19, 1997

Fleetwood Mac revive past warmly

By Steve Morse, Globe Staff

HARTFORD - Time to come out of the closet. I've followed Fleetwood Mac ever since the group played acid blues in ecstatic evenings at the Boston Tea Party in the late '60s. Fleetwood was a hard-edged, male-dominated unit in those days. I recall that when the first woman, Christine McVie, joined the group, she was booed - that's how hard-core the fans were.

Later came the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks addition, sparking a new sound, a new male/female sensitivity, and a flood of million-selling albums. The band moved from blues to pop-rock, keeping a few psychedelic touches and doing it all with style. The ''Rumours'' album (1977) sold in the zillions, and I even liked their experimental follow-up, ''Tusk, '' which made rock history because it was the first album to exceed a $1 million studio budget.

The Mac faded in recent years with differing lineups but has just re-formed with the popular ''Rumours'' group, with Buckingham, Nicks, and McVie swapping vocal leads and sharing celestial harmonies in front of the revitalized rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.

The band opened a national tour here Wednesday with a near-capacity crowd of 19,000 - the first one with the ''Rumours'' lineup since 1983 - and it was a truly inspired night. It was a 2 1/2-hour synthesis of catalog tunes and new songs similar to the format of the MTV concert special the band did this summer, but with more warmth and spirit.

There also were nine additional numbers, from Nicks's sultry ''Gypsy'' and Buckingham's emotive ''Go Insane'' (falling somewhere between a prayer and a cry for help), to McVie's transcendent ''Song Bird,'' and a surprise version of the Beach Boys' ''Farmer's Daughter,'' which Fleetwood Mac had once recorded for a live album.

The Mac now moves to Great Woods tonight and tomorrow for two sold-out shows that will draw nearly 40,000 fans. The set may be changed slightly there, and one possible addition is the vintage late-'60s Fleetwood tune ''Oh Well,'' which Buckingham would do. (It is the only pre-mid-'70s song the band intends to perform on this tour.)

On Wednesday, the group used two extra guitarists (Neale Heywood and Brett Tuggle), two backup singers (Sharon Celani and Mindy Stein), and percussionist extraordinaire Lenny Castro. It made for a rich, sumptuous sound, but also for flexibility.

The opening songs were the same as the TV special - ''The Chain'' (with Buckingham scatting primally), ''Dreams'' (a signature Nicks number), and McVie's ''Everywhere,'' which displays the same skiffle-beat tone that other Britishers like John Lennon and Paul McCartney adored.

Nicks, who has lost some weight and is singing more youthfully than she has in years, followed with ''Gold Dust Woman.'' The focus then switched to Buckingham's wailing ''I'm So Afraid'' and, by contrast, the soothing pop of McVie's new ''Temporary One,'' about building a bridge back to one's lover. Nicks added whirling-dervish spin moves to the song, firing up an all-ages crowd that looked exhilarated by night's end.

''Thank you for following us all these years,'' said Nicks. ''It's very cool.''

Nicks turned wistful on ''Landslide'' (with her famous line, ''Children get older, I'm getting older too'') before McVie restored an insistent pop edge on ''Say You Love Me'' and ''You Make Loving Fun.'' Hearing these songs made one realize what a pop-music machine Fleetwood Mac once was, despite simmering backstage feuds that stemmed from failed intra-band marriages and drug and drinking problems, which are now history.

But this wasn't just a memory-lane trip. The new songs were strong, such as Buckingham's ascending ''Bleed to Love Her'' and provocatively ghoulish ''My Little Demon.''

Buckingham's musicianship had taken a quantum leap from his last Mac tour, probably because of his wood-shed period with a guitar orchestra that he took on the road a few years ago. Buckingham scorched through ''Tusk,'' which attained a Grateful Dead ''Terrapin Station'' vibe and kept it up with the rockabilly-spiced ''Eyes of the World'' and set-closing ''Go Your Own Way.''

If the Great Woods shows measure up to the Hartford debut, then expect more exhilaration.


This story ran on page E13 of the Boston Globe on 09/19/97.