December 3, 1987
Because Fleetwood Mac has undergone as many personnel changes as the Reagan cabinet, it's hard to dispute the band's right to mount a tour in the wake of singer, songwriter and producer-guru Lindsey Buckingham's recent departure. But before the start of the group's current, Buckingham-less Shake the Cage Tour, there were some compelling reasons to suppose that the big Mac would be none too successful. After all, Buckingham who along with Stevie Nicks joined the already established band back in 1974 was Fleetwood Mac's resident pop genius, and he was largely responsible for the band's sound in the last decade.
The surprise, then, is that the Shake the Cage show is no embarrassment; the band's current concert lineup Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, keyboard player and vocalist Christine McVie, recently added singer-guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito and three female background vocalists has come up with a tight two hours of melodic, arena-friendly rock.
Opening with "Say You Love Me," a Christine McVie number from the 1975 LP Fleetwood Mac, the band wasted no time establishing the fact that it could reasonably reproduce its charming FM chestnuts. Interestingly, the second selection was "The Chain" the haunting track from Rumours that has always seemed to be a powerful statement about the group members' refusal to allow romantic disentanglements and other inner turmoil to split the group. The song was impressively put across, even if the chain has now been broken.
Throughout the rest of the show, the band continued to bring life to its classic Seventies hits "Dreams," "Rhiannon," "Over My Head," "Don't Stop," "You Make Loving Fun" though some of the audience's most riotous applause came for more recent smashes, such as the current hit "Little Lies," from Tango in the Night, and Stevie Nicks's 1983 solo rocker "Stand Back." For the most part, this version of the Mac tried to bypass the Buckingham oeuvre, and as a result, a number of the most substantial and inventive songs in the band's catalog went unplayed. Billy Burnette did a workmanlike job singing Buckingham's hit "Go Your Own Way" and brought a certain conviction to the pre-Lindsey Mac standard "Oh Well." That said, there were moments when Burnette's and Vito's attempts to re-create Buckingham's idiosyncratic vocals and guitar flourishes became a bit annoying.
But what ultimately made the evening were the efforts of the veteran members. Stevie Nicks time-warped love goddess though she may be sounded better than ever. As she peeled off layer after layer of shawl and shmata and regularly changed chapeaus, the recently cleaned-up Nicks exhibited the same spaced-out star quality and sexy, raspy purr that made her a female rock icon in the Seventies. Christine McVie, a sweet but rather retiring presence onstage, sang her romantic numbers in a lovely voice that grew in strength as the concert progressed. If Christine McVie was retiring, her ex-husband, John, was nearly invisible, spending most of the show hiding in the shadow of his longtime rhythm-section companion Mick Fleetwood. The lanky, slightly crazed-looking Fleetwood was a more active figure as he not only drummed brilliantly joined at times by the Ghana-born percussionist Asante but served as energetic group cheerleader.
"There's been a rumor going around that this is the last Fleetwood Mac tour," Billy Burnette told the crowd at one point. "It's not true. This band is just getting started." Not quite, Billy. But even if Fleetwood Mac's best days are behind it, Shake the Cage showed that the beast has some life in it yet.
(article sent to me by Dark Angel, with thanks)