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POP MUSIC REVIEW

LIVE: Fleetwood Mac at Anaheim's Honda Center

The band, still potent although a bit weather-worn and missing Christine McVie, revisits 'Rumours' and 'Tusk' during a sprawling show.

May 25, 2009|Margaret Wappler

Fleetwood Mac, the American-British powerhouse behind one of the bestselling albums of all time, is rock's greatest example of the good gained from ignoring every bit of sage advice known to humans about love and relationships.

But thank the dysfunctional heavens they did: The Mac has emerged some 30 years later as a weather-worn but still gripping outfit, currently touring in its most potent configuration, minus the singer and songwriter of some of its most durable hits, the retired Christine McVie.

For those needing a refresher course in popular rock scandal, the band forged ahead for 1977's blockbuster "Rumours" despite breakups between front couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and founding member John McVie and wife Christine.

It's all ancient history now -- or is it? This latest greatest-hits trek, titled "The Unleashed Tour," inevitably finds the band revisiting "Rumours" and its more challenging follow-up, the sprawling and fantastic "Tusk," but instead of shying away from its fractious history, Fleetwood Mac has woven it into the concert repertoire.

In one of his song introductions at Anaheim's Honda Center on Saturday night, Buckingham explained that the first "Rumours" tune they recorded revealed his emotional temperature at that moment -- anger, bitterness, even a little humor, but "we had to reconcile . . . at least for a short time." The band then launched into one of its strongest performances of the night, a thrillingly muscular "Second Hand News."

Buckingham often spoke with the measured tones of someone who's been in therapy. Other times, he would yowl, stamp his feet or thump his lean-muscled chest before pointing reverently at the crowd. He also dropped a big hint about the Mac's future: "There's no new album to promote yet" (his emphasis).

Nicks occupied her side of the stage with an entirely different energy. Clutching a tambourine festooned with strips of fabric, her performance was sometimes too sedate, though not without breakthrough moments of fiery engagement.

Maybe the gypsy queen was conserving her energy for the lengthy show (total time was 2 hours and 40 minutes), but her early performance of "Dreams" only spottily struck on the song's slumberous wisdom. Nicks' range has narrowed over the years, but by the middle of the set her voice seemed warmed up, her presence more keen.

For "Gold Dust Woman," Nicks, wrapped in one of her many luminous shawls of the night, reveled in her favorite role of stage-bound shaman, her brown eyes finally blazing as she gave her most convincing vocal performance of the night. McVie and Fleetwood provided stellar rhythm support as she closed the song in a classic Nicks position -- draped arms out, back to the crowd, light pouring in around her figure.

Despite her listlessness at times, Nicks is no less a treasure to behold, the rare rock 'n' roll frontwoman who's still inspiring to legions of young bands. Her sense of mystique provides an important counterpoint to Buckingham, who -- blistering guitar solos and all -- is familiarly situated in the rock god vein.

But when Buckingham and Nicks hugged at the end of "Sara," an awkward but nevertheless moving gesture, they proved they have the ability to surprise the audience as well as each other. And so new depths of Fleetwood Mac will surely be plumbed for lovers everywhere, old and new.

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margaret.wappler@latimes.com

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Fleetwood Mac

Where: Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Price: $49.50 to $149.50

Contact: (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com

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