I was fortunate to see Fleetwood Mac perform at HP Pavilion in San Jose last night, and let me tell you there is something to be said for the wisdom of age. I don’t say this because Lindsey Buckingham preceded each song with a pseudo-intellectual monologue about how awesome his life was/is, or because all in attendance now know precisely how much Stevie loves San Jose since that’s where Fleetwood Mac entered her world, thus saving her from a life lived as a part-time waitress and cleaning lady. Age has produced two tangible realities for members of the Mac: (a) they’re not sleeping with each other anymore, and (b) they fucking rock live. Yes, F-bomb.
I should tell you that I’ve always been a casual Fleetwood Mac fan at best. Well, more of a Stevie Nicks fan for no reason aside from a gut reaction. Could be her diaphanous fringe, or the way she moves which, for a white girl with absolutely no rhythm, was something I could learn. And let me define casual by admitting that the words “I had no idea that was a Fleetwood Mac song” came out of my mouth with an embarrassing frequency last night. Also, I did, at one point, think Stevie was maneuvering the stage a bit geriatrically until I remembered that’s just how she moves, and then I made a mental note commending her on the fact that she trademarked twirling and also made it sexy. That is a feat worth heralding, and I will, from here-on out, attempt to copy this.
But my oh my, what a production; back-up singers, back-up drummers, back-up guitarists, electrifyingly well-orchestrated lights, undulating visual displays, epic guitar and drum solos, and breath-taking harmonies–all from people the same age or older than our parents. In the center of it all were Stevie and Lindsey who hugged often and performed together at a level accessible only to people with a shared history. Stevie wisely avoided the high notes she can’t handle anymore, and the set list was crafted to give the audience what they came to see (mainly, songs from Rumors) as well as new material that wasn’t terrible. But let me clarify here: Fleetwood Mac needs to prove nothing to no man. Their songs are inseparable from the musical fabric of our time, they are a given. I know all the words to “Dreams,” but I can’t tell you why; however, it probably has to do with the fact that it’s just always been on. On the radio, on VHI after Behind the Music, blasting out of my parents cassette tape deck, and filling the air of so many dive bars across this great City of San Francisco. Fleetwood Mac has been the background music to my life, and I didn’t even know it.
While researching this piece, I came across two live performances of “Dreams.” The first is probably from the late 1970s, early 1980s and, correct me if I’m wrong, but Stevie seems to be a little off, her movements unnecessarily cautious like she’s afraid of slipping, and her vocals aren’t very impressive. Compare that to the second video of Fleetwood Mac performing the same song within the last ten years. Better, right? Stevie’s vocals are confident and clear, and the whole band is more smooth. Sure, this could be the result of better sound equipment and, perhaps, editing. More likely it’s the result of maturity and focus, of knowing you should only perform at your best because that is what keeps your craft sharp and relevant.
So maybe I should ditch one of my cardinal concert-going rules to never see an act in the twilight of its career. Clearly, Fleetwood Mac has made a case for the importance of fermentation, as did Elton John. And while I could have left without hearing Stevie implore us (in contradiction) to save the planet, always take care of ourselves first, and be kind to one another, I will always remember the night I saw Fleetwood Mac. And how they blew most other bands 40-years their junior out of the water.