27 Nov 2018

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac with Neil Finn live in California

From RNZ Music, 8:00 am on 27 November 2018

Fleetwood Mac with its new lineup, which includes our very own Neil Finn, is halfway through a 52-date US tour. RNZ Music’s Melody Thomas (and her US-based ex-pat mum and sister) were lucky enough to see them perform in San Jose, California.

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Photo: 2018 Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac walked onstage to the deafening roar of a crowd who were incredibly excited to be there.

Over two hours and a whopping 22 songs; men grooved and played air guitar; women waved arms draped in fringe and chiffon; and the smell of pot (legal here) filled the air.

  • Fleetwood Mac are playing in Auckland and Dunedin in September. Skip to dates.

Through it all Stevie Nicks led the charge, her voice instantly identifiable and still going strong at - yes I did google it during the show - 70 years old.

And right by Stevie’s side, there was our Neil, looking every bit a part of the furniture.

Somewhere near the front were me, my big sister and my Mum, reunited for the first time in ages. All around us were groups the same as us: parents who’d loved Fleetwood Mac since they were teenagers, joined by the kids they’d forced their music on, who’d grown up to realise the songs were part of their DNA. 

A friend once asked if I liked Fleetwood Mac. “I don’t really know them,” I said. She put on Rumours and within a minute I realised I knew every single song and almost every lyric.

Melody Thomas (right), her sister and mum

Melody Thomas (right), her sister and mum Photo: Melody Thomas

Even now when I hear ‘Dreams’, I feel the warm glow of childhood, before divorce and puberty and the dispersal of our family to different continents. Look up the Youtube video for ‘Dreams’ and the top comment reads, “This song brings back memories I never had.” Me too - and they all include my Mum. 

Like any long-term expat, Mum was absolutely beside herself with pride at seeing our Neil on stage. Every time there was a lull in applause she took the opportunity to yell “Go kiwi!” or “Kia ora Neil!”

While faintly mortifying, I didn’t really care: hearing the soundtrack to your childhood performed live is special enough, add Neil Finn’s voice - so familiar it feels like home - and it’s all a bit overwhelming.

Neil Finn performing with the Auckland Philhamonia Orchestra in March

Neil Finn performing with the Auckland Philhamonia Orchestra in March Photo: Ivan Karczewski

Despite the band’s original guitarist Lindsey Buckingham being missed by many, some of the best moments of the night belonged to Neil.

One was Neil and Stevie performing ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, which Stevie called “one of the top five songs ever written”, as the crowd sang along and waved their lit-up phones.

Another was during a beautiful rendition of ‘Landslide’, when Stevie lost the key and Neil crossed the stage to sing her own song quietly in her ear, guiding her back to the right place.

While Stevie apologised for the mistake, reassuring the crowd that it’d never happened before, for us it was one of the nicest moments. Fleetwood Mac is such a well-oiled machine, each part and player so well rehearsed, that flashes of vulnerability are incredibly moving.

Other honourable mentions include a 10-minute drum solo from Mick Fleetwood that some have called self-indulgent, but which a friend pointed out was likely an opportunity for the rest of the band to take a quick breather... and an entertaining one at that. 

Another was the recently recruited guitarist Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty fame) continuously lighting up old classics with his energetic playing, including a cover of ‘Free Falling’, which the band performed as old photographs of Tom and Stevie played onscreen and the crowd intermittently cried and swooned. 

Christine McVie reminded us all what a great songwriter she is with songs like ‘Little Lies’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘You Make Loving Fun’ (a song inspired by an affair with the band’s lighting designer, while Christine was still married to bassist John McVie, which - to this day - is still performed with John on stage). 

The final song of the night was a duet of ‘All Over Again’ performed by just Stevie and Christine, the two women who - despite all the break-ups, rumours and excesses - have never failed to be there for each other.

As the band took their final bow to roaring applause, Mick stepped forward and delivered a final message into the mic: “Take care of yourselves. In this strange, strange world we seem to be living in, remember to be so very kind to each other. We love you.” 

The applause that follows is unanimous: We love you too.

Fleetwood Mac NZ shows:

Auckland, Spark Arena

  • Thursday, September 12

  • Saturday, September 14

  • Monday, September 16

  • Thursday, September 19

Dunedin, Forsyth Barr Stadium

  • Saturday, September 21
Stevie Nicks ans Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac onstage in San Jose, CA

Stevie Nicks ans Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac onstage in San Jose, CA Photo: Melody Thomas