Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden

Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden
all photos by David Atlas

Fleetwood Mac Madison Square Garden March 19

It was sometime during Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham's delicate duet performance of the lullabye-like "Never Going Back Again" at last night's Madison Square Garden Fleetwood Mac show when someone behind me opined, "They shouldn't even be allowed to fucking play these hallowed fuckin' halls."

This self-appointed curator of Madison Square Garden, a man who could be best described as what would've happened to Turtle from Entourage had he never gotten out of Queens, was dismayed at the similarity of last night's set to previous Mac gigs he had seen. And while I wouldn't exactly put it the same way, you could empathize with his frustration.

Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden

Tonight's most recent incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, a Stevie-John-Mick-Lindsey-and-five-dudes-playing-backup-in-the-shadows set-up, was, according to ticket stubs, on the Unleashed: The Hits 2009 Tour. But despite a set list of nothing but straight-'70s-FM-God-Body-Heat-Rocks this wasn't easy listening.

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Fleetwood Mac's well-known extra-musical narrative is about the strong personalities, big demons and contentious conflicts that haunted the band. And their records, especially the classic run from Fleetwood Mac through Tango In The Night, are testaments to the band members' collective ability to overcome their egos and all the upheaval in their lives and make a seamless, often beautiful, sound together. They really were a collective; imbuing any song--be it a Stevie, Lindsey, or Christine--with a sound only the group could produce.

So it was kind of sad watching them balkanize their set in such a decided way: making their performances celebrations of individual achievement rather than group harmony, pummeling the real trophywives of the NYC in the audience with drum and guitar solos, and badly misjudging the pacing and momentum of the set.

The early part of the night peaked with the band's most unselfconscious performance: a blinding take on "I Know I'm Not Wrong" from Tusk that had motorik and sounded more like The Clean than anything else. After a marching-band-free "Tusk," the band went all an-intimate-evening-with... and played a sleepy stretch of quiet jams: "Sara," "Landslide," and the rarely-played-out "Storms."

After a punishing Turkish prison sentence of the Peter-Green-era blues explosion, "Oh Well," and some Mick Fleetwood drum-solo/scream therapy (enlivened only by a great version of Nicks' solo new-wave classic "Stand Back"), the group came into the home stretch: "Go Your Own Way," then break, then "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." As people started to file out, Turtle piped up, "They got one more; they're gonna do 'Silver Springs.'" And, like clockwork, the band filed out to play the gorgeous mid-tempo break-up song, originally left off Rumors. On this very last song, Fleetwood Mac, playing a tune about tearing yourself apart, actually sounded the most together they had all evening. And despite knowing what was coming all night long, even the self-appointed guardians of these hallowed halls--as they tipped back their white Yankees hats and teared up a little--seemed to finally feel like they got what they paid for.--Chris Ryan

Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden
Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden
Live: Fleetwood Mac at Madison Square Garden

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