Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10, 1982


by Ken Tucker, Inquirer Popular Music Critic

Fleetwood Mac's new album "Mirage" (Warner Bros.) isn't as incisive as "Rumours" (1977) nor as adventurous as "Tusk" (1979) but it is a lovely album nonetheless: dreamy, urgent, slyly amusing. "Mirage" is well-titled, since its best songs are ethereal.

If Fleetwood Mac, which will come to the Spectrum tomorrow night, was nothing more than a manufacturer of lyrical pipedreams, however, its music would be too precious to be enjoyable. No, what fuels this veteran band is its clash of personalities and musical styles. Fleetwood Mac is a band of opposites: from the terse, pounding rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie to the feathery voice of Stevie Nicks; from the firm, hard-headed romanticism of keyboardist Christine McVie to the loopy surrealism of guitarist-producer Lindsey Buckingham. Fleetwood Mac is the only superstar band that will never be accused of being "faceless"; its five prickly characters rub against each other and create fierce, vivid friction.

Thus it was a delightful irony that Fleetwood Mac was chosen to close out the massive US Festival in California last weekend. The theme of the US Festival was "Unite Us in Song," yet the biggest act of the festival was one that prides itself on its glorious disunity - this is, after all, the band whose best-selling album, "Rumours," is almost entirely about inter-group love affairs that were disintegrating during the recording sessions.

Indeed, by the time Fleetwood Mac appeared at the US Festival Sunday night, it looked like a band that was slowly unraveling. When Lindsey Buckingham was singing his lungs out, Stevie Nicks would stroll around the stage, the expression on her face suggesting that she was visiting some alternate universe. Over in a corner, Christine McVie sat behind a bank of keyboards as if it was an office desk; but when it was her turn to sing a song, she came to breathy, urgent life.

With any other band, these might be taken as signs of imminent collapse, or at the very least an indication of a severe lack of discipline. But let me hasten to say that Fleetwood Mac's set was wonderful, an exhilarating mixture of humor and a heavy beat. The songs that sound slight and wispy on "Mirage" - tunes like Nicks' "Straight Back," Buckingham's "Oh Diane" - gain a lot of volume onstage, if for no other reason than Mick Fleetwood slams the vague beat of each song into proper shape. And Nicks, for all her self-indulgence, really is a charming live performer who reaches out to her audience with an extraordinary fierceness, as if she desperately needs reassurance that her music is loved.

By contrast, Buckingham is a witty dandy - his costume in the stifling heat of the US Festival was a tweed suit, vest and Panama hat - who phrases everything in an ironically distanced yowl. As a great admirer of Buckingham's eccentric solo album "Law and Order" (1981), I was prepared for a certain amount of manneristic excess, but Buckingham outdid himself last Sunday, plucking his guitar in a furious, spastic blur and yelling out delicate lyrics in a werewolf's croon.

In fact, Fleetwood Mac is so full of willful, pleasant perversity that it often seems amazing that they're Top 10 recording artists who sell millions of records. Granted, the band couches its peculiarities in a glossy, catchy pop style - you need listen only to the band's current single, the pulsing "Hold Me," for proof of this - and their lyrics work the same romantic ground (faded love, blossoming love) over and over, in simple, smart phrases. And "Tusk," the oddball white-elephant double album that contained Buckingham's craziest experiments, was not the commercial blockbuster its immediate predecessors were. By the terms of "Tusk," "Mirage" is a tame vision of pop music, but it yields enough mature, beautiful rock to deserve its big-hit status. And I'll bet tomorrow night's show at the Spectrum will be an odd, interesting one.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.