BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
Not many bands can sell out Philips Arena in December and return three months later to another rapturous response.
Then again, not many bands can weather heartbreak, divorce, drug addiction, affairs and every other kind of kitchen sink upheaval and still stand in each other’s shadows – seemingly happily, too.
But that’s the beauty of Fleetwood Mac. Their dysfunction is to our benefit.
The original quintet – Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and the ageless Christine McVie – revisited Philips Wednesday night for an encore performance that didn’t quite match the magic of its late-2014 appearance (that show was my pick for the best of the year).
But Fleetwood Mac bringing its B+ game is still better than most live acts in peak form – and on its 69th show of the tour, no less.
Not much tinkering has been done with the set list other than nixing a couple of songs (personally, I’d take “Seven Wonders” over “Sisters of the Moon”). But those catching the “On with the Show” tour for the first time couldn’t have much to quibble about with the otherwise solid song selection.
The 2-hour-plus event launched, as usual, with the bracing and winding “The Chain” before McVie, who rejoined the band last year after a 16-year absence, made her elegant presence known with “You Make Loving Fun.”
Both McVie and Nicks needed a full solo song to find their vocal groove (“Dreams” sufficed for Nicks, clad in her standard uniform of black layers and cool, fingerless gloves) before the band hit its harmonic stride on “Secondhand News.”
So much of Fleetwood Mac’s catalog endures because of its originality.
The murky chords that introduce “Rhiannon” never sound anything other than intoxicating, while the pure pop shimmer of “Everywhere” is refreshingly pleasant for a band that often shrouds its lyrical heart in darkness.
And then there is “Tusk,” with its marching snare drum, jagged guitar chords and accordion. It’s certainly not Fleetwood Mac’s most accessible song, but its appeal lies in its quirkiness and in Buckingham’s bravado.
The intensity that Buckingham brings to the stage is every bit as necessary as Fleetwood’s wild-eyed joviality or Nicks’ ethereal mystique, and his centerpiece moment on “Big Love” always results in a demonstration of astounding musicianship.
One gets the feeling that whenever this current Fleetwood Mac ride ends, Buckingham will miss the stage the most. It appears to liberate him, whether during those nimble, hand-cramp-defying runs on “Big Love” and “I’m So Afraid” or when he’s quietly strumming alongside his forever soul mate during “Landslide.”
While the combo of Buckingham and Nicks will always produce a heartfelt sound, the whole of Fleetwood Mac – augmented by a keyboardist, guitarist and trio of female backup singers – still melds beautifully.
The haunting “Gold Dust Woman,” anchored by Fleetwood’s clicking cowbell and McVie’s sturdy bass lines; the high gloss prettiness of “Little Lies” hiding its story of bitterness; the anthemic bite of “Go Your Own Way” and cautious optimism of “Don’t Stop.”
Through them all, harmonies soared and melodies resonated – Fleetwood Mac inextricably linked to a past that we never want them to surrender.