The death last week of Christine McVie was pretty much unexpected and is still to be fully absorbed now, even as she had once more taken herself away from the spotlight. What isn’t in doubt is her central role in the so-called golden years of a band that existed in so many forms across 50 years, beginning as a leading force in the British blues scene, but reaching its cultural (and sales) zenith in the 1970s as the kings of west coast pop rock.
One of the changes the band went through was McVie’s departure – amicably for a change, unlike the more recently sacked Lindsey Buckingham – in the late ‘90s, an absence which stretched nearly two decades.
But she did return, which is where Wind Back Wednesday brings us: Australia, 2015, the first tour with the five “golden years” staples. It wasn’t some perfect, soon-to-be-fabled reunion but it wasn’t without considerable appeal.
Allphones Arena, October 22, 2015
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY WOULD BE ACCURATE but also not ever enough: too long and inconsistent of energy; some good sections and a virtual Classic Hits radio playlist; another “seriously, what the ... ?” moment with a drum solo, and Christine McVie.
Yes folks, it’s worth an exclamation mark, Christine McVie!
The return, after 16 years, of the longest songwriting contributor in the band was always going to be more than just another body to accommodate onstage and a few more songs to add to the setlist. McVie’s songs, from You Make Loving Fun - appearing two songs in, between Lindsey Buckingham’s The Chain and Stevie Nick’s Dreams, in the democratic/pragmatic structure long necessary in this complex band - to the show’s closer, Songbird, with her at piano and only Buckingham on guitar accompanying her, are not just standards.
They, and she, are also the temperamental, lyrical and melodic balancing point between the very yin and definite yang of the band’s dominant forces, Nicks and Buckingham. That fractious pair these days make a deliberate, almost ostentatious, point of acknowledging each other, even singing to each other. But the more comfortable and frequent interactions are between Nicks and McVie, and Buckingham and McVie.
As with Nicks and to a lesser extent Buckingham, McVie’s voice is not what it used to be and songs never really fly the way they used to. But accommodations are made, both by an audience just happy to have them there and ready to applaud anything, and a band with up to five extra voices filling out those harmonies.
(Curiously, while the three backing singers and two extra guitarists/keyboard player/vocalists were acknowledged by Mick Fleetwood in the band introductions, no mention was made of the back-up drummer/percussionist hidden behind the guitar amps.)
(Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham. Bassplayer John McVie is in his preferred spot: obscured.)
Warmth and general happiness – not to mention an odd but entertaining Cajun spin on Tusk, and the now standard, and winning, duo version of Landslide - weren’t always enough to compensate for many flat periods where tempos dragged and things felt listless. Notably, Sara, Say You Love Me, Think About Me and Gypsy were sat through rather than lived through.
But from Little Lies, a lesser McVie number which nonetheless sparked up the evening as we approached the two-hour mark, the show regained its footing and energy, if not necessarily its quality settings.
The less said about Fleetwood’s obligatory solo the better, though it might be worth asking if they come back again, if in place of that tedious bit we could have Nicks, solo at piano, singing Planets Of The Universe. Please?
23. Encore 2: