OAKLAND — During its heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Fleetwood Mac was nearly as famous for drama as for music. Despite big egos, love triangles and a penchant for indulgence, the band managed to crank out hit after hit and establish itself as true rock-pop royalty.
Following a widely publicized split with vocalist-guitarist (and key songwriter) Lindsey Buckingham, the band returned to the Bay Area, playing shows in San Jose, Sacramento and Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Sunday. For a band with such big personalities, the remaining members and two big additions showed that they are, as ever, more than the sum of their parts.
Taking the stage to the familiar opening kick drum thump, the band ripped through “The Chain,” a fan favorite that showcased the signature three-part vocal harmonies that define the Fleetwood Mac sound. Newcomer Neil Finn (Crowded House) held down the Lindsey Buckingham parts, including the iconic “Running in the shadows” line, to good effect.
A flurry of hits came next, each featuring a different lead vocalist: “Little Lies,” with Christine McVie up front, was followed by “Dreams” (Stevie Nicks) and “Second Hand News,” off Rumors, with Finn singing lead. Finn matched the soaring intensity of the original vocals without turning to mimicry. His performances throughout the night were solid and almost craftsman-like. It was clear he’s aware of the role he is now playing in a much larger musical machine. “Say You Love Me,” the Christine McVie-penned tune from the band’s 1975’s eponymous record, rounded out the string of chart toppers.
Casual fans may not be aware that Fleetwood Mac existed long before Lindsey Buckingham and his then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks joined the band on New Year’s Eve in 1974. The earlier incarnation, led by blues guitar god Peter Green, had a minor hit with the song “Black Magic Woman” in 1968. The version released by Carlos Santana in 1970 is, of course, far more famous, but songwriting credit goes to Green.
The addition of guitarist Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers) to the lineup gave Fleetwood Mac an ability to revisit its blues roots and stretch out into musical zones that the virtuosic Lindsey Buckingham was, apparently, less interested in exploring. Campbell dug deep on several tunes from the Peter Green era, including “Black Magic Woman” (with Nicks on vocals), “Tell Me All The Things You Do” and “Oh Well.” Elsewhere, Campbell proved more than versatile enough to pull off the sometimes-complicated guitar parts authored by his predecessor. One interesting side note on Campbell’s style versus Buckingham’s is that Campbell tends to play just a bit behind the beat (known as “in the pocket”) while Buckingham is often pushing on the front of the beat. This makes the whole groove feel a little more relaxed with Campbell at the helm.
The highlight of the evening was a double-bill of ballads. The first was “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” a Crowded House hit that Mick Fleetwood noted he had loved for years before he met Neil Finn. The crowd joined in en-masse during the chorus and didn’t stop singing as that song merged into the classic Stevie Nicks song “Landslide.” The arena was awash in swaying smart phone lights as the band changed gears and played “Hold Me.” It was the first full band performance of the song in 36 years.
An extended, trippy version of “Gold Dust Woman” let Stevie Nicks show off her vocal chops and ability to mesmerize even a huge crowd. She was in fine form and teased fans by saying that “Of all my hometowns, Oakland is the favorite.”
“Go Your Own Way” capped off the pre-encore set and, after a standing ovation, the band returned to perform a touching cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” while a photo montage of Petty, Nicks and Campbell played on the video screens. The bouncy hit “Don’t Stop” closed out the show on a high note before Nicks and Christine McVie returned to duet on “All Over Again” and wish everyone well and good night.