Saturday 22 October 2016

Review: Fleetwood Mac light up 3Arena Dublin

Published 12/07/2015 | 11:58

Singer Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac performs on the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival
Singer Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac performs on the Main Stage at the Isle of Wight Festival

How fitting that Fleetwood Mac should close the European leg of their latest comeback tour with a brace of sold-out shows in Dublin.

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It was at this very venue in 2013 that erstwhile singer and keyboardist Christine McVie reunited with her bandmates for the first time in 16 years. The success of their soundcheck jam that night persuaded the reclusive Englishwoman to rejoin full-time – and now here she was, back where it started.

The sense of a group operating at full tilt was evident from the outset as McVie, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks plunged into the harmonized introduction to The Chain, a tug-of-love ballad written while Nicks and Buckingham were in the throes of their notoriously messy late '70s break-up (heartbreaking fuel for the 40-million selling Rumours album). Half a lifetime later the tune still gleamed with acidic vim as Nicks and Buckingham locked gazes and spat accusatorially lyrics at one another.

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With McVie in the fold once more, it was as if a missing piece of a puzzle had clicked into place. In her absence, Buckingham's pop eccentricities wielded an outsize influence over Fleetwood Mac, his oddball histrionics threatening to capsize the ship. Tonight confirmed that McVie's classic songwriting and calm persona served as a vital counterpoint. Earlier Fleetwood Mac reunions felt like glorified Buckingham solo affairs. This was assuredly no longer the case.

How or why Fleetwood Mac became the world's favourite heritage act remains a matter of conjecture. Through the '80s and '90s, the soft rock titans were an ongoing punchline. Catchy, crowd-pleasing and always on radio, they were everything a rebellious young musician might despise. However, the onward march of the decades has seen their stock soar, with hayseed Gen Yers such as Haim and Best Coast blatantly indebted to the quintet's burned-out California cool. Wait long enough and everything comes back into fashion.

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Straining my neck from my standing position towards the rear of the arena, I could just about make out the top of McVie blonde bob. It was all that I needed to see as Fleetwood Mac negotiated one of mainstream rock's greatest catalogues. From The Chain, they shifted gear into You Make Loving Fun, McVie's sly Valentine to a secret lover, while Nicks had an early opportunity to shine on Dreams, a scented-candle dirge whose hippy aphorisms yielded universal truths.

Wiry and goggle-eyed, Buckingham was a tortured yin to McVie's understated yang. He barked into the mic and bobbed his head as he dispensed platitudes to the crowd (apparently we're still the best audience in the world). McVie, in contrast, stayed in the shadows for much of the set but, when required to step beneath the spotlight, was a searing presence, especially on Everywhere, her bittersweet love ballad. Disinterred six songs in it was a knockout punch and powerful closing argument for anyone who wondered how pop's naffest ensemble ended up its most beloved.

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