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Armed with hits, Fleetwood Mac plays with crowd's emotions at Verizon Center

April 10, 2013|By Lexie Mountain | Midnight Sun contributor

“Not That Funny” had him thrashing and howling, at his most punk of the evening yet. “Tusk” itself merited cackles of laughter from Buckingham and tons of chimes, the backdrop exploding in CGI mirror-jungle fury, the whole group chugging and lurching into that majestic marching-band crescendo. Oh yeah, there was no marching band.

(Of course, Fleetwood Mac is not going to bring an entire marching band on tour just for one section of one song. The sample that was used sounded fantastic enough that seeing images of a marching band  was enough to allow the imagination to not be stressed out by the fact that, at a point when one could finally have seen a live marching band play one of the most unusual segments of one of the band's most unusual songs, the experience was fully subverted by the sheer pleasure of seeing the band at all. The fact is that “Tusk” sounded huge, and when Nicks returned to the stage for “Sisters of the Moon” she sounded huge again too.)

I don’t know what Nicks did when she stepped away from the spotlight after “Rhiannon," but “Sisters of the Moon” and “Sara” were both a giant middle-finger-in-fingerless-gloves to the haters. The sustain, the warble, the fullness of her unique method were all in evidence, and it seemed almost as if the first half of the set was just a warm-up. Stevie was back, haters. And then, just as suddenly as she came, she was gone again.

Probably at this point many Fleetwood Mac fans have experienced Buckingham’s acoustic version of “Big Love” and were thinking, “Oh, this again,” and to those people I say nothing because they likely do not exist. Hearing “Big Love” on an acoustic guitar is like being caught in a frantic bug-zapper of treble and pain. Even when Nicks came back out for a truly sweet rendition of “Landslide” that she tenderly dedicated to her “fairy god-daughters” while misty sparkles floated in the air, I found myself trying to go back in time several minutes and re-live the feeling of being electrocuted in my seat.

After a satisfyingly raw acoustic version of “Never Going Back Again," Mick joined Buckingham and Nicks for a song that Stevie herself only rediscovered on, in her words, “you guessed it — YouTube!” “Without You” found Mick on a confounding drum setup: Cocktail roto-toms? Mini stand-up kit? Whatever. Even Buckingham and Nicks can’t remember when they wrote “Without You," and it was a nice present for the heads. I was in the head when “Gypsy” went down, but my companion told me that there was quite a bit of twirling from Nicks, and what little I could make out through the cinderblock panopticon that is the Verizon Center sounded like it was probably good fun.

“Eyes of the World,” from the act's "Mirage" album, was brisk, frisky and accompanied by probably the most visually disturbing imagery of the evening. Every time the chorus of “Eyes!” punched in, an eyeball zoomed through the backdrop, green or brown, making it difficult to concentrate on what is an interesting late-career gem. Eyes! When the chime rack returned for “Gold Dust Woman” it was something of a relief. Nicks returned in a gold shawl to haunt Mick’s cowbell-playing wizard face, pointing fingers at all the ancient queens to her left and right. A few lighters went up in the crowd, a few smartphones for lighters-by-proxy.

What company did Fleetwood Mac commission to make it look like they were being toasted alive during “I’m So Afraid”? I would like to work for anyone who can cause Fleetwood Mac to be aggressively cooked under red-hot Maxi Pads(TM) as steamy, smoky tendrils creep through the background. Thankfully the heating devices receded and it was Jumbotron Lindseyvision for the evening's money-shot guitar solo, in which his completely bizarre fingerwork was on display for all to behold.

After a smoking-hot version of “Stand Back” from Nicks’ solo repertoire and “Go Your Own Way,” the band said goodnight. Or did they? They did not!

Encore No. 1: Mick Fleetwood emerged from the sidelines wearing jaunty knickers and trademark gold balls dangling from his belt for “World Turning,” giving an extensive drum solo in which he yelled, "Come on baby! Are you with me?" The good news is that everyone in the audience was with him. The weird news is that he split up with his wife three hours earlier. Buckingham sat on the side of the stage with his legs crossed at the ankles, as if he was on the lawn at the Hollywood Bowl, gazing up at his googly-eyed friend, the lynchpin of the idea of a band that is Fleetwood Mac.

Encores Nos. 2-4 slid down a hill of strange melancholy. From “Don’t Stop” to “Silver Spring,” it felt as if the band was slowly letting go of the audience, getting them ready for the outside world again. With the utterly sad and beautiful “Say Goodbye” the crowd filtered out, stunned. Nicks told those who remained that they were “the dream-makers, the dream-catchers.” Mick’s last words for the audience, a giant hug from a giant man in a little red top hat, were “Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. We love you so.”

Lexie Mountain, nee Lexie Macchi, is a Baltimore-based musician and artist. She last reviewed Van Halen for Midnight Sun. Wesley Case edited this review.

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