Even with a reformatted line-up, Fleetwood Mac prove that they’re still masters of their craft.
A chance studio encounter in the early ‘70s would shift Fleetwood Mac towards a commercial rock journey that would elevate the enduring act to the highest pantheon of music royalty.
Ironically, when Mick Fleetwood asked Lindsey Buckingham to join the band in 1974, Buckingham would only agree on the premise that his folk singer-songwriter partner and paramour, Stevie Nicks, could join too.
In 2018, following a tumultuous career between the two, Nicks declared that she would never share the stage with Buckingham again. With an impending tour in the works, it’s easy to read band leader Mick Fleetwood’s interpretation and subsequent resolution of events: Can the seductive stage presence and extraordinary voice of Nicks be replaced for the tour? Not a chance. Despite being the chief architect of Fleetwood Mac’s triumph, what about Lindsey’s guitar duties? You bet. And with that decision they moved on without him.
Two replacement guitarists were received into the inner sanctum. Former member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, a dexterous axeman who handles Buckingham’s six string locutions with aplomb, and the esteemed Neil Finn, who brings his accomplished voice to Buckingham’s vocal roles.
“Rod Laver Arena is an unpredictable beast when it comes to sound, but tonight we get the honey.”
Rod Laver Arena is an unpredictable beast when it comes to sound, but tonight we get the honey. With over 50 years of music to draw from, the crowd, rosy-cheeked from the overpriced wine in the foyer, are here for the hits – the life soundtracks – and that’s exactly what they get. The Chain, Little Lies, Dreams, Second Hand News, Gypsy and Gold Dust Woman are lobbed like nostalgic atom bombs from the stage, lifting the audience from their seats.
Stevie Nicks, the alluring progenitor of Boho-chic, spellbinds her audience throughout, twirling her sequin-studded shawls with balletic mystique. Her distinctive voice, an indispensable component of Fleetwood Mac’s success, is a potent constituent in the live arena; unfaltering; soaring; mesmerising.
Neil Finn, who, judging by his presence on stage, is clearly having fun on this monumental tour across the globe, pulls out Split Enz’s I Got You for a memorable duet with Nicks: “I wrote this song in Melbourne many years ago,” he recounts. Alongside Don’t Dream It’s Over, he seamlessly works three songs by Peter Green – the guitar virtuoso that founded Fleetwood Mac in the late ‘60s, only to lose the dream to LSD – into the set.
The band and their supporting musicians deliver an uncompromising two-hour performance that no one in the 20,000-strong audience would quarrel with. While the absence of Buckingham – a supernatural guitarist and architect of some the greatest pop rock compositions of the 20th century – is noticeable in the opening numbers, what Campbell and Finn bring to the palette (admirable picks by skipper Mick Fleetwood) fills the void with sincere belief, ability and professionalism.
Tonight, as the show concludes and the cold Melbourne weather greets the crowd at the exit, there’s an underlying feeling of mission accomplished. Will they come back to Australia again? With three shows left in Melbourne over the next week, I wouldn’t be taking that chance.