Fleetwood Mac @ Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne (Mon 2 Nov 2015)
So here’s a bucket list band if I’ve ever had one: Fleetwood Mac. THE lineup of Fleetwood, Buckingham, Nicks, McVie and McVie.
You may remember my old school mate Stephen who I mentioned when writing about the David Byrne and St Vincent show a few years back. He and I discovered a lot of music together, and his brothers Vincent and Daniel also played a large part in my musical tutelage.
In my early years, I definitely relied on my older brother and sister for musical cues. My sister is entirely responsible for my love of INXS and U2, while my brother is my 70s and 80s metal heritage – I’m talking bands like KISS and Europe. He may even be responsible for my unnatural love of artists like Journey and Eddie Money.
My brother is six years my senior, and my sister only a year younger than him. So by the time I was 12 years old, they’d both left school and I guess I had less to relate to them about. Have no fear, we’re close as ever now. The difference in age between 40 and 45 or 46 is insignificant compared to the chasm of life experience between 12 and 17 or 18. My point is that Stephen’s brothers, Vincent and Daniel were much closer to me in age, and their record collections more accessible. Left to my own devices, I’d just listen to whatever the radio told me to, which at the time was Whitney Houston, George Michael and Bananarama et al. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Stephen and his brothers had a more ‘mature’ taste in music that appealed. Daniel was crazy about David Bowie. He had posters all over his half of the room he shared with Stephen. He was also into bands like The Eurythmics and Midnight Oil.
At my 20 year school reunion I got to catch up with Stephen which was sensational. At the end of the night, Vincent showed up as well and it was great to see him after so much time. I would have loved to have caught up with Daniel as well, but it wasn’t to be.
As I get older I get more nostalgic. That’s just life I guess. As much as I’m looking forward to the gigs that are coming up, like Meredith, Sufjan Stevens or Kurt Vile, I really do miss the old days. I certainly don’t want to suffer from some sort of malignant nostalgia, but sometimes it is indeed difficult to reconcile the present with a past that was, depending on what colour your glasses are, better. Now I’m not taking about life as a whole here. My life is fucking brilliant and most days I scold myself for having a negative thought in my mind. My son is wonderful and happy and healthy, with my wife (mostly) matching his demeanour. What I’m talking about is the essence of things.
And now, I will admit there’s a fair few wines been had…
I have become an old man without even knowing it. And I mean that in the most positive way toward myself. A few months ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to have some time where we had no-one to anwser to. My wife divested herself of her business interests and I had an opportunity to take leave from a day job that passion and wonderment had nothing to do with. In essence, we had a few months where all we had to do every day was to take care of our son and each other. I am forever grateful for those few months, as I do believe they’ve paved the path for the rest of our life.
In this time, we thought we’d take some time out from Melbourne, where we live, and go and see our family. We did a reasonable trip of driving and flying and spent some good time with family in Canberra and Brisbane. While in Brisbane, I took my boy, Clarinator (not his real name), for some long walks in his pram. I showed him many a spot that had significance to me, including my old football club, my primary school, and my old neighbourhood. Bear in mind the little guy was about 7 months old at the time, so really, it was all about me. There were many moments on those walks that I cried. Really, I did. Cried like the sleeping baby who was in the pram before me. I missed my childhood. I missed my youth. And to be perfectly honest, I was sad that my boy would never have the childhood that I had. His childhood may (and probably will) be better, so it is indeed from a point of selfishness that I think a child not brought up in Brisbane in the 70s and 80s of middle class Australia is a bad thing.
In the following paragraphs I will not reminisce on the sounds of the needle hitting the vinyl for the first time or the excitement of a new edition of Rolling Stone, Spin, or dare I say it, Smash Hits. I will be thinking about them though, in the same way I’ll think of the smell of the butcher shop when I could sit on the counter, or the old coin operated machines to get 2c postage stamps from the wall outside the post office on Honour Avenue.
One day in 1997 I was over at Stephen’s place and Daniel came home with a new record. In those days, this was a fucking big deal. The kids of today will never understand that a new album meant saving your cash and then making it to the record store to get the vinyl and bring it home and then just sitting in front of the record player and listening to this new album over and over and over.
The album that Daniel brought home that day was Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac.
The ritual of a new album was pretty serious shit. The liner notes would be read and even better if there was an inner sleeve of lyrics. If it was an older sibling who was introducing said new album, then the shit was even more serious. Older siblings knew things that we could never know. There was an unworldliness to the older siblings record collection. When my sister brought home The Bridge by Billy Joel, I knew that this was serious shit. So when Daniel walked through the door of that old weatherboard house on Birdwood Tce in Toowong with Tango In The Night under his arm, Stephen and I knew that this shit was indeed, serious.
I really miss those days of sitting in front of a turntable with the speakers turned in, and just listening.
This album was a fucking revelation to me. Big Love, Seven Wonders, Everywhere and Little Lies. And that’s just the hits – the rest of the album was just as good, if not better. Of course, Fleetwood Mac were nothing new to the rest of the world. Tango In The Night was their 14th album. I didn’t know that- I was 12 years old. The greatest thing about getting into a band that’s already been going for over a decade? The back catalogue. They released a Greatest Hits collection a couple of years later which I bought, and still have today sitting in a box somewhere. You know the one – green cover with a flower on it. I think everyone has a copy of that album somewhere.
Although Fleetwood Mac didn’t mark as big a place in my musical life as Talking Heads, they still did play a pretty big part. Copies of Rumours, Tusk and Mirage were summarily bought by either Stephen, me or possibly Daniel. Unbeknownst to any of us at the time, Tango In The Night was to be the last Fleetwood Mac album of the lineup of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Although this wasn’t the original lineup, it was by far the most successful. If you’re unaware of the Fleetwood Mac story, Wikipedia’s not a bad place to start.
When tickets went on sale for this show, we’d just had our son. It’s never easy to see the future. Wouldn’t it be great if we could? At the time, we figured the boy would be old enough for babysitting and so summarily tickets were bought for wifeinator and myself, as well as my father in law, and mother in law. I have no idea if I’ve previously mentioned this before, but my father in law is a musical encyclopedia. I’ve seen a shitload of shows with him, including The Police, Steely Dan, The Beach Boys, Tinariwen, and David Byrne. The fact that this Fleetwood Mac tour was THE lineup from Tango In The Night gave me extra incentive to want to go.
Tickets went on sale around my father-in-laws birthday so it was all a bit of a birthday present for him. I was still pretty jazzed to be going. Anyway, due to the fact that my son still really does rely on my wife’s boobs for survival, she decided that going to the other side of town for a gig for a few hours mightn’t be such a good idea. My mother in law (my wifes mum) decided to stay home with her as well. So it was me and the musical encyclopedia. We brought in Albatron-the-brother-in-law to fill a spot, along with the last minute inclusion of my old mate Pete. With all this pre-show talk, I imagine you’re thinking I’ll describe the weather and traffic too, but no….
On with the show…
The opener “The Chain” was great to hear, but felt odd. I can’t quite describe it. For the first few songs it almost felt like that this could have been night one or two for the band. It was loose in parts, and seemed almost awkward. You Make Loving Fun and Dreams picked it up, although I remember thinking after Dreams that my first sentence in this review may include the word “underwhelming”. Second Hand News followed, and from this point, the energy picked up and we were on track.
At one point Stevie Nicks declared that tonight was their 110th show on this tour, which had been going for over a year. Not bad for a band who are all surely well into their 60’s by now. I’m sure their bank accounts are appreciative as well!
One of the odd things about Fleetwood Mac is their history. For those that don’t know, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were a couple when they joined the band. Christine McVie and John McVie were married. None of those couples survived, and there were a few lineup changes along the way with every one of those people (save John McVie as far as I know) leaving the band at some point or other, only to return down the road. The most recent return was that of Christine McVie last year.
The first time Christine McVie spoke, it was to state how much she was enjoying the show, and to thank her band mates for letting her back in. It really was quite odd, and is just a little more of the ‘awkward’ I mentioned earlier. Did she have to get up every night and speak from a point of deference to thank these people for letting her back into her own band? For the last 110 nights? Who knows. I’ll be honest- I’m pretty drunk after a few wines on the couch a few days after the gig, so I know I’m rambling. My point about the McVie thing is that a lot of the show seemed quite staged- and it may not have been. These relationships go back decades, with more shit under the bridge than I’m sure most of us could deal with. Who knows if Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham get on, or that of John or Christine McVie? Or Stevie and Christine? meh. It’s all too complicated.
The show itself was brilliant and I’m so glad I went, and had the opportunity to see this lineup. With almost every song a certified hit, the pacemakers in the room were on overdrive. The main set closer of Go Your Own Way was massive. Seriously- the whole arena lost their shit.
Mick Fleetwood’s band introductions were a little odd, being that every person on stage got a mention, except for the percussionist sitting right behind him. It really was quite bizzare. Backing singers, guitarists etc, but not the percussionist who the whole room could likely see. We had an extra good view of him as we were side of stage, which also meant we had no view of Fleetwood himself due to stage scaffolding. He did pop out for a few songs behind a cocktail kit on wheels though. For those playing at home, please note that Mick Fleetwood’s version of a cocktail kit is bigger than my version of a full size kit.
There are so many Fleetwood Mac hits that one could never fit them in one show. Tracks like Hold Me and As Long As You Follow would have been great to hear, but as has been often said on this site- you can’t have everything.
The set closer was a song called Songbird, sung by Christine McVie. I’d obviously heard the song before as it’s from the Rumours album, which I owned at some point in the last 20 or 30 years. I daresay the lyrical content washed over the preteen me, but gee it hit me tonight. Truly beautiful song. I played it to my wife the day after the show and I had tears in my eyes. McVie’s voice too- so lovely.
My father-in-law-the-musical-encyclopedia said that he thought Stevie Nicks didn’t sound great at the show. I wouldn’t go that far- I thought she sounded brilliant, but McVie was definitely more ‘there’. I can’t actually imagine seeing a Fleetwood Mac show without Christine McVie, especially since most of my faves are sung by her. It would be weird to hear those songs sung my Stevie Nicks. Gonna have to do myself some YouTubing. Stevie Nicks though does have that iconic voice that just can’t be replicated- it really did send shivers hearing it live. She should do a country album. Her voice would suit some slide guitar and western twang.
Buckingham was on fire as well. Vocally he was probably putting more energy into it than the others and certainly played his guitar with the passion one would expect. I was amazed by the fact that he doesn’t use a pick. Didn’t see one the entire show. Just him and his fingers. Fuck that dude must have some calluses.
John McVie didn’t say a word all night, which I believe is fairly much on par for him. Just stood there doing his thing, not getting into it, not getting out of it.
At the end of proceedings, Mick came out and thanked us all for coming. He still dresses like a leprechaun with those weird balls hanging off his pants.
Anyway- go and see this show. Fuck the money, just do it. There comes a time in life where you realise that the upcoming tour of someone you were into as a kid may well be their last, so just fucking go- doesn’t mean you have to do it again. I saw Steely Dan and am glad I did, but there;s no way I’ll see them again. John Mellencamp is touring. That’s tempting. Lonesome Jubilee was one of those albums my sister got when I was a kid and it’s now in my DNA. I played that album to my wife a few weeks ago, and although she obviously knew a lot of it (she’s not THAT much younger than me), it was pretty sweet to be able to recite pretty much every word of every song. And then a week later the tour was announced. So maybe that’a sign I should go see Mellencamp?
Anyways, I’m out. Enjoy your morning, day or night, and remember, don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
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