Fleetwood Mac’s Last Stand – For Now
The Hollywood Bowl
September 1st, 1980
This is our Last show.” Pause. “For a long time.”
With that line – uttered several times over the course of the night – Lindsey Buckingham laid to rest, sort of, the rumors that Fleetwood Mac‘s two Hollywood Bowl shows would be the group’s swan song. Apparently, the hugs, kisses and locker-room celebration that ended this performance signified nothing more than communal relief over finishing a nine-month tour.
It was Buckingham’s show at the beginning of the tour, and, if anything, he was more commanding at the end. Dressed in the ten-gallon hat, boots and white V-neck T-shirt of a Beverly Hills cowboy, he was simply spectacular onstage. He dominated the band as completely as any human being could ever dominate drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie – one of the most cohesive and potent rhythm sections in rock.
Buckingham continually battered at the constraints of arena-level rock, both in the quirky, brave songs from Tusk and in his explosive solos. A classic rock & roll spastic, he released enormous amounts of energy with a series of violent, herky-jerky tics. And when he flailed across the stage in “It’s Not That Funny” or “What Makes You Think You’re the One,” it was not a New Wave affectation (as it occasionally seemed at the beginning of the tour); it was simply the only way he knew to exorcise a few bothersome demons.
But this wasn’t a one-man show. Christine McVie was the calm in the eye of Buckingham’s hurricane; her songs were cogent and graceful, and she was a model of restraint on keyboards. And Stevie Nicks was still essentially decorative – but in a band that is a near-miraculous blend of musical, temperamental and visual styles, that decoration was undeniably important.
And during “Landslide,” Nicks was riveting. Stripped of all her dying-swan poses and fairy-queen pretensions, and backed only by Buckingham’s acoustic guitar and McVie’s quiet keyboards, she sang of growing older in a husky, cracked, uncertain voice that was far more honest and moving than anything else she did.
It was a gutsy display, part of a far gutsier evening than we logically expect from megastars. And it was simply one of many highlights: the awesome momentum of “The Chain” and “Tusk”; the powder-keg detonation of “Go Your Own Way”; the gorgeous “Over and Over”; the oppressive brilliance of a slow “I’m So Afraid.”
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To be sure, much time was wasted on extended solos: these guys still pay homage to some old hard-rock conventions. And curiously, there’s little sexual electricity in the band; it may have a history of intragroup liaisons, but onstage it is a mosaic of individuals who coexist more often than they interact. At the Bowl, it was a daring and almost wholly satisfying coexistence. Let’s hope they can keep it up next time they appear together – whenever that may be.
This is a story from the October 30th, 1980 issue of Rolling Stone.
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