Review: The hits don't stop with Fleetwood Mac at Tampa Bay Times Forum 

A look back at the Fri., June 7 concert, with photos.

Whether you love them or hate them, you have to hand it to Fleetwood Mac; the band and its members have successfully and tactfully been able to overcome what are normally deal-breaking obstacles like romantic breakups, divorces, personality clashes and more personnel changes than just about any other pop band in the business. Fleetwood Mac began as a humble blues act in the 1960s; it wasn't until the mid-1970s, when lead guitarist Lindsay Buckingham and his then-girlfriend, chanteuse and poetess Stevie Nicks, climbed aboard, that the band's popularity skyrocketed through the stratosphere. [Text by Gabe, photos by Tracy.]

Still maintaining that proven successful lineup (minus keyboardist and golden-voiced co-lead singer Christine McVie, who's enjoying self-imposed retirement), Mac is currently out on the road and in the midst of a thriving international tour that's garnering much well-deserved accolades. The band has toured sparingly since their reunion of sorts in 1997, but they can rest assured that whenever they decide to get together and hit the road, halls and arenas around the world will always be filled to capacity by their still-loyal fan base. And as an anxious crowd of 14,071 found out at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa on Friday night, the wait for another Fleetwood Mac tour was well worth it.

Without the need for an opening act, Fleetwood Mac slowly and deliberately emerged on the massive stage a little after 8 p.m. and without pause, Buckingham led the band, including backup singers and additional keyboarding and guitarist, into a no-nonsense version of "Second Hand News," the opening cut from Mac's iconic best-selling album, 1977's Rumors. Engaging in his brilliant, unorthodox playing style, Buckingham was in fine vocal form as he got the performance off to a rousing start with this infectious, upbeat number. Sporting jeans, tee-shirt and leather jacket, Buckingham looked as cool and fit and he did comfortable. A seemingly unlikely rock star until he starts singing and unleashes his unmistakable guitar attack, that is.

On the contrary, Nicks always looks like the picture of class and style, and she didn't disappoint the very vocal followers who cheered her on from her perch, stage left. Clad in frilly black blouse, black velvet skirt and tall black boots, the golden-haired songstress looked svelte, sexy and elegant as she furiously banged on her tambourine or toyed with the many sparkly scarves that covered her mic stand. And when she sang...the whole place lost its collective mind. Early in the set, Nicks showed off her still-strong and commanding pipes as she delivered a spirited rendition of another Mac classic and one of her signature songs, "Dreams."

The stage production was surprisingly low on gimmicks and visuals save for a couple of massive screens that flanked either side of the band and one that occasionally beamed random images as a backdrop, but Fleetwood Mac more than proved they could hold their own without it with strong material and performances, and really, that's all they really needed.

Smartly mixing well-known hits with lesser-known material, Mac poured equal amounts of feeling and passion into every number they delivered. Boldly revisiting their controversial and polarizing 1979 double-album Tusk, Buckingham proudly mentioned the conscious decision to feature material from this particular release. He joked about wishing he was a fly on the wall in the Warner Bros. board room when the label executives gave their first listen to the New Wave-inspired, somewhat experimental and decidedly different finished product the band had just delivered. The album has aged well and spirited readings of some of its highlights ("Not That Funny," "Sara" and the title track) were some of the night's absolute best moments. "Sisters of the Moon," a Nicks standout from the same album, sounded fresh and revitalized. Nicks seemed proud and personally content when she announced that the number hadn't been performed live by the band since 1981. She hunched over her mic stand and furiously belted it out with what seemed like a new-found passion while blowing the dust off this almost lost gem.

As founder and namesake of the band, the enormously tall Mick Fleetwood — looking less like a legendary rock drummer and more like an aging Italian chef with his white shirt, black vest and red bandana tied around his neck — kept a steady beat all night long on his modest kit. Original bassist John McVie was silent for the entire night but left his heavy, booming bass work do the talking for him. It's obvious that Nicks and Buckingham are the star power and the attraction of this band, and neither artist missed any opportunity to soak up the spotlight and amply display their individual, innumerable talents.

If the vitality of the Buckingham/Nicks combo was ever doubted, Stevie and Lindsay quickly dispelled those misconceptions. Playfully alternating shimmery shawls, capes and wraps throughout the performance, Nicks broke into her trademark twirls during her brilliant and faithful reading of "Gypsy," the hit that introduced the band to the MTV generation thanks to a video in heavy rotation on the channel in the summer of '82. Buckingham nearly stole the show with his ferocious delivery of "I'm So Afraid," the album-closer from 1975's self-titled Mac LP. Bathed in dramatic red lights, Buckingham's emotive vocals were eclipsed only by the hair-raising, resonating guitar workout he delivered during the extended performance. For a crowd that was on its feet for most of the night, the enthusiasm level and the wow-factor of the performance was clearly felt by all. The loudest and heartiest ovation of the night came at the song's close as a sweaty, panting Buckingham graciously received and basked in the furious and well-deserved response.

The band gladly indulged the crowd with just about every possible Mac tune anyone would want to hear with the exception of any of Christine McVie's signature compositions. As a nod of respect to McVie, her best known numbers ("Say You Love Me," "You Make Loving Fun," "Over My Head," "Hold Me," etc.) were noticeably omitted from the setlist. It was during the rendition of her tune "Don't Stop" that her absence was most felt, though. While Nicks is no slouch and can more than carry a tune, her vocal style didn't seem to fit the verses that are normally handled by McVie's deeper, more subtle tone. Nobody in attendance seemed to mind; the feisty crowd was up and singing in unison as the nearly three-hour marathon set gingerly moved along.

The chemistry between ex-lovers Nicks and Buckingham is still alive and well; as they quietly shared vocal duties all alone on the vacated stage for "Say Goodbye" — a little-known composition from 2003's Say You Will — the duo cautiously and painstakingly harmonized beautifully throughout a song that reflects their personal history and the need to move on and leave the past behind. "It's about having allusions and leaving them behind; but its good to have allusions," the chatty Buckingham announced while introducing the evening's final number.

And, like that, the extremely enjoyable and uplifting performance flew by and the evening came to a close. But, without letting the opportunities pass them by, Fleetwood and Buckingham delivered some heartfelt words of praise and appreciation to the highly demonstrative audience, which was never shy to react loudly and show their approval throughout the intermission-free set.

Stevie's parting words, however, packed the most feeling and seemingly hit closest to home for most in attendance. "You are the dreamcatchers," she announced in her typical mystical way. "You make our songs seem new again for us." Nicks's charisma is undeniable and her followers love her dearly not only for her musical talents but for the compassion and the respect with which she always addressed them.

It's easy to understand how and why this particular lineup of Fleetwood Mac has remained one of the absolute most successful and popular ones of the rock era. "There are still some chapters left in the book of Fleetwood Mac!" Buckingham announced from the stage before hitting the crowd with some impressive material the band recently recorded. And judging on the enthusiastic response to the songs this past Friday night, it's clear that any future chapters to the unique Mac tome will be eagerly received.

Set List:
Second Hand News
The Chain
Dreams
Sad Angel
Rhiannon
Not That Funny
Tusk
Sisters of the Moon
Sara
Big Love
Landslide
Never Going Back Again
Without You
Gypsy
Eyes of the World
Gold Dust Woman
I'm So Afraid
Stand Back (Stevie Nicks solo song)
Go Your Own Way

Encore:
World Turning
(Mick Fleetwood Drum Solo)
Don't Stop

Encore 2:
Silver Springs
Say Goodbye

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