UCLA Bruin, August 25, 1997

Soundbites

Fleetwood Mac "The Dance" (Reprise) Before you start getting all cynical, recalling how you're still broke from paying $100 for that awfully-contrived Eagles "Hell Freezes Over" reunion tour, let's give Fleetwood Mac a chance to explain themselves. The original, "Rumours" era line-up has kissed and made up for "The Dance," a 17-track concert taped over three days in a Burbank soundstage (ahem, like the Eagles) for an MTV special.

It has money written all over it, you would think, especially when the biggest group of the 1970s reforms to bring back the magic that enabled their "Rumours" album to sell 17 million copies in the United States alone. Surely after all the break-ups this band endured, all the drug problems band members suffered, only big bucks could get these five troubled souls onstage again, right? Just ask the Sex Pistols and the Eagles ... there's no need to cover up the financial motivations.

Well, Fleetwood Mac have decided to use "The Dance" to tell their story, and what a beautiful story it is. Singer Stevie Nicks, guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham, singer/keyboardist Christine McVie, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood have flawlessly re-created the pain of the past, thrown in a lot of hope and have come full circle in an emotionally charged concert which genuinely aims to confront and conquer old demons.

Fleetwood Mac's live "reunion" album, unlike those bankable, thrown-together live albums of their '70s contemporaries, is an epiphany brilliantly captured, unmatched in its honesty and harmony this year, save U2's spiritually euphonic "Pop" or Radiohead's thematically sweeping "OK Computer."

The album's opener, "The Chain," is a gritty - and perfect - opener (with Buckingham and Nicks earnestly proclaiming, "And if you don't love me now/ you will never love me again/ I can still hear you saying/ we will never break the chain"), full of delicious irony in light of their pre-"Rumours" break-up. The mellow yet potent "Dreams" follows, with the raspy-sounding Nicks convincing you with her every perfectly hit note that this is for real.

In fact, Nicks' clear and soaring vocals almost steal the show from her bandmates, if only they didn't do such a damn fine job in musically complimenting her passion. "Landslide" (and you thought it was a Smashing Pumpkins song) is a mesmerizing duet between Buckingham's subtle acoustic guitar and Nicks' touching coming-of-age prose and near-tears vocal delivery. The chilling, stunning "Rhiannon" is even more passionate than the album version, displaying both Nicks' glowing vocal variations and amazing songwriting skill that climaxes with urgency.

The optimism on the album pops up mostly in Christine McVie's songs, like the pleasantly-poppy love song, "Everywhere" and the old favorite, "You Make Loving Fun." The real emotion, though, comes in on her new, jangly "Temporary One," which fantastically characterizes the break-up and reunion with its realized lyrics ("The river goes on and on/ and the sea that divides us is a/ temporary one/ and the bridge will bring us back together").

And what about those "new songs?" Well, they kick ass too. "My Little Demon" is a spunky little number, which takes the theme of confronting haunting pasts in a more lighthearted affair. Nicks' sincere "Silver Springs" (actually a "Rumours" outtake) glistens with feeling. "Bleed To Love Her," the Lindsey Buckingham solo work that helped initiate the reformation of Fleetwood Mac, is a folky and upbeat number. And in "Sweet Girl," Nicks' perfectly melodic voice highlights her richly personal lyrics.

Lindsey Buckingham has a few rock-tinged contributions on "The Dance," like the Pink Floyd-esque "I'm So Afraid" and the darker "Big Love," where eerie and intense guitars offer a change from the sunny folk-pop of their bigger hits. Buckingham comes full throttle with "Go Your Own Way," a soaring, anthematic song which sounds even better live, proving the members of Fleetwood Mac may have gone their own ways but this time the bitterness is replaced by respect and understanding.

It is at the end, though, where "The Dance" is at its most celebratory (if you can separate the fact that the marching band in the background is from USC). "Tusk" is a percussion standout, a battle cry for Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac that roars and drives. The album ends and climaxes with the crowd-pleasing classic, "Don't Stop," with the band promising "it will be better than before ..."

Usually, live albums don't flow with an understood backdrop or theme like "The Dance," save Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York" or maybe U2's "Under a Blood Red Sky." Fleetwood Mac tackle what drove them apart and to the brink, yet the universal themes of break-up, personal anguish and eventual reconciliation which apply to all of us. The moods weave in and out with brilliant contradiction, from one extreme ("Go Your Own Way") to the other ("Don't Stop"). What truly makes "The Dance" work as a story with a happy ending is the band's earnest interactions, both musically and lyrically. You can feel the smiles and the tears through the chorus of harmonies and rhythms, which rarely works in a live setting on an album.

"The Dance" works as a colorful, musical textbook, telling the history of a band finding redemption and hope through reflection, uncertainty-plagued imagery and mature revelation. But most of all, it is a stirring piece of musical work that moves the listener with its enthusiasm, unpretentiousness and tunefulness. Hell has frozen over, indeed. Mike Prevatt A+

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