Stevie Nicks may be the face of Fleetwood Mac, and likely its most recognizable voice.
But Lindsey Buckingham is clearly the band’s head — author of many of its biggest hits, player of its distinctive guitar, master behind its sound with his production.
And Christine McVie may be its heart — the warm, welcoming vocal counter to Nicks’ emotional gypsy.
So you would expect that even though Buckingham and McVie’s current duo tour is to support their new self-titled, Top 20 album, they would carry many of Fleetwood Mac’s attributes into concert with them.
And indeed they did Friday at Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, on the last date of the tour’s first leg — to the point of playing almost as many Fleetwood Mac songs (nine) in the 19-song, hour-and-40-minute set than they did the new songs (10).
The songs weren’t always Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, but they displayed the pair’s contributions to the band.
And the concert also showed how distinctive Buckingham and McVie are as solo artists.
That talent was on display immediately as the concert opened with Buckingham doing a slow, studied and acoustic version of his solo debut single hit, “Trouble” before being joined by McVie singing the deep Fleetwood Mac cut “Wish You Were Here,” warm and lovely.
Then Buckingham did the Fleetwood Mac song “Never Going Back Again” as a pained lament that was simply stunning. And he followed with an also-acoustic but angry and aggressive version of his “Shut Us Down.” His guitar work was as impressive as his voice.
For the rest of the show, the duo had a four-person band.
Saying she wanted to do older material “from the second century,” McVie kicked into Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful “Hold Me,” sounding more mature and mellow than the original arrangement — as if it had been seasoned over time.
“Little Lies” was still a great song, but McVie seemed to struggle with her higher range. Buckingham made up for it by growling on the chorus and playing great lead guitar. “Tusk” was as pretentious as ever, but darned if it still doesn’t have the power to make you move.
The middle of the set showed McVie at her Fleetwood Mac best, on “Hold Me,” the intense fleeing-love song hit from “Mirage.” And while it was McVie’s song, it also show how much Buckingham contributed with simply his high counter-voice.
Then “Little Lies” again showed how much the combination of McVie and Buckingham’s voices mean to Fleetwood Mac.
The Fleetwood Mac song that suffered most was McVie-voiced “You Make Loving Fun,” which felt weighted down by age, as McVie again fell short vocally.
The songs from the new disc were surprisingly strong. As Buckingham said, clearly the pair still can capture that band magic.
Early in the set, the chiming “Sleeping Around the Corner” sounded like Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, both musically and vocally. Same for “Feel About You,” except for additional muscle. Buckingham’s masterful melody work was evident. The disc’s first single, “In My World,” was more the kind of song McVie did for the group.
The harder “Too Far Gone” sounded impressive, with heavy percussion and Buckingham’s searing guitar, but was a bit too obvious.
Later in the set, “Love is Here to Stay” was very much a Buckingham tune — lovely guitar and voice over a swirling melody, it’s an unusually hopeful love song. But the wistful, left-love “Red Sun” also was too obvious — saved only by Buckingham’s echo-y guitar.
It was something of a disappointment that McVie didn’t sing perhaps her best Fleetwood Mac song, “Over My Head.” The duo instead offered its B-side, “I’m So Afraid” — which made for a fine Buckingham guitar centerpiece (and his playing got a standing ovation from the near-sellout crowd). But the song was leadened under its own weight.
The duo made up for it by closing the main set with Buckingham’s kiss-off song “Go Your Own Way” — which still carries a beautifully bitterly sting after all these years, and was even stronger and meaner now.
And McVie got her chance, opening the encore with the beautifully bubbling “Everywhere,” which she sang great.
In an odd move, Buckingham-McVie closed with two new songs. “Lay Down for Free” sounded a lot like “Hold Me” — in a good way, clearly from Buckingham’s head. And the closing “Game of Pretend” was very much the kind of song to which McVie gave warmth — and heart — in Fleetwood Mac.
Sands Bethlehem Event Center
August 11, 2017
John J. Moser | The Morning Call | August 11, 2017