On Fleetwood Mac, Reunion Tours & Things Our Parents Teach Us

I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac thanks to my loving and music-loving parents. My dad got to know them—personally as well as musically—on their first U.S. tour, before they gained a massive fan base on this side of the pond. He and his friends—friends I grew up around—met them around on a cross-country trip and hung around with them awhile, stacking up stories they now tell about partying with the band in their early days.

Of course, “early days” is a misnomer when it comes to Fleetwood Mac, who formed, albeit with a notably different lineup, in 1967 in London and did pretty well for themselves as a blues-rock band in the U.K. before they came over to America, added some new members, and shifted their style towards a poppier rock sound. But the Fleetwood Mac most of us today know and love came together in 1974 when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the British band, which had already added Christine McVie, held onto John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, and lost a handful of other players. And the days when my dad discovered them were the early days of this outfit—the five musicians knitted together by messy romantic relationships and a remarkable group dynamic.

This fivesome has been touring together again—a reunion fans young and old are excited about. They will close out the second run of the U.S. portion of their “On with the Show” tour this weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas, before heading across the pond again.

I don’t go to stadium concerts often. I try to reserve the experience of $13 beers and 40-minute bathroom lines for only the living legends, and these are often shows I see with my parents—the last was probably Paul McCartney at Citi Field in 2009. My parents were and are a steady force in setting my musical tastes, and throughout my life they’ve taken me to concerts—sometimes life-changing concerts. So there was a certain emotional significance for me in seeing this band—one of their all-time favorites—without them, on the other side of the country. When my father found out that Fleetwood Mac was touring again with Christine back in tow, he set his heart on his daughters—one in Colorado and the other in California—having the chance to see them. It didn’t work out on the first half of their tour, but when they added another set of dates I bought a ticket to see them at the Pepsi Center, and called to tell my very excited father.

The low point of the concert was, undoubtedly, the $45 we paid for parking. Second runner-up was probably Lindsey Buckingham’s drawn-out electric guitar jams on his solo numbers like “Big Love,” which were admittedly very well-performed and apparently crowd-pleasing, but just not my thing. White dudes jamming on guitars is easily the most prolific kind of live music available in Colorado (and probably the Western world), and I get more than enough of it without going out of my way. Sorry, Lindsey.

The high points, for me, were instead woman-centered—Christine reveling in her own return before going into late-fan-favorite “Everywhere;” Stevie introducing “Gypsy” with a touching, if scripted, story about having faith in one’s self. And that shouldn’t be surprising, since the women are, I would argue, the major players in the band, maybe now more than ever. Christine’s return is the big thing behind this tour, and I think very few would disagree that Stevie is the big thing to come out of Fleetwood Mac. The whole band reuniting is an easy thing to be excited about, but most of all for me it’s inspiring to see these two female friends and powerhouse performers together again. Stevie has always expressed publicly a vision of Christine as her mentor, as well as a priority for having women as mentors and confidants. Despite all the drama that divided the band, the appreciation its members have for one another still shines through on stage decades later. Though focus is largely on reconciliation between famous former lovers Nicks and Buckingham, who take the stage alone and hold hands during her heart-wrenching performance of “Landslide,” there is an overarching feeling of affection for old friends that resonates throughout the stadium.

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At the same time, it’s clear that the Fleetwood Mac of 2015 is not the Fleetwood Mac of 1975, for a handful of reasons, some of which are obvious. They’ve all aged 40 years—which is nearly twice as long as I’ve been alive, and so must involve a heft of change and growth I can only halfway imagine. They’ve been through a lot together, and they’ve been through a lot apart—solo careers, memoirs, rehab stints, relationships with non-band members, and what have you. And while some aspects of the band’s dynamic seems to click easily back into place once they’re all back together on stage, others remain disjointed. The front-and-center personalities of the band—Nicks, McVie, and Buckingham—are perhaps more sure of their strengths as individuals than ever, and the result is that it seems more like they are taking turns than working together. In fact, they literally take turns—Buckingham performs a few solo numbers where the other members leave the stage, and Nicks sings “Landslide” with only him beside her. Even when the whole band is playing, there is a noticeable shift in style depending on which vocalist and songwriter has the lead. Even the visuals behind the band change drastically—for Buckingham’s rockier songs, sharp kaleidoscope designs and jarring images of a disembodied head; for Nicks’ moody, witchy numbers we see images of the moon, of the night skies, and of course, when appropriate, of gold dust surrounding blurry silhouettes of women; for McVie’s easy-on-the-ears blues-folk hybrids there are backdrops of trees, sunsets, and winding roads.

In some ways, they perform more like a super-group of rock stars from different backgrounds joining together than a long-running band reunited. Some of it has to do with battling egos—and for a band with such a fraught history this must be nothing new. A writer for Westword describes the band’s 1979 album, “Tusk,” with similar observations, noting that the “20 experimental tracks felt like the disjointed work of three charismatic solo artists as opposed to five talented musicians.” And yet, in this same article, he argues fervently that this disconnected double-album is the band’s best work. Battling egos have perhaps always been part of the band’s allure—but, despite break-ups both professional and personal, they are still working together, and it seems this willingness to take turns is what lets them.

This, too, goes back to the mutual affection that seems to overcome a great number of musical and personal differences. Forty years later, what brings and holds the band together is respect for one another’s talents and fondness for the memories they share. I am a total sap and a firm believer in the importance of interpersonal relationships above all else, so a reunion like this just sort of makes my heart burst. I think of the members of the band maintaining and rekindling friendships after so long, and I think too of my parents—of their lifelong circles of friends who saw this same band together again 40 years later—and I find it all terribly comforting. In her “Gypsy” intro, Stevie Nicks referred to her career with the band as “living proof that dreams come true”—she was constructing a sort of rags-to-riches narrative, reminiscing over her youthful wishes for stardom, but there is another level on which this feels true for me. If musicians can keep on working together; if friends can keep on loving each other after decades of differences—well, that, I think, is living proof of something.

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