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Monday, October 27, 1997

Rumours of Mac's total demise not true

Saturday's concert brought back all the quirky chemistry of the '70s best-loved pop act and dysfunctional family.
The first tour in more than 10 years by the five-member "Rumours" lineup suggested that even if ex-lovers have become old friends, it's commerce more than musical vision that keeps them together.
But Fleetwood Mac was always a band full of rival agendas, so it's no surprise that solo moments outweighed group cohesion at Saturday's sold-out concert at the MGM Grand Garden.
In retrospect, the "Fleetwood Mac" album of 1975 and "Rumours" album two years later made up the one brief era when the different tastes and personalities of the band members blended into a unified whole, so it made sense that those massive-selling albums would anchor the reunion tour.
It was a pity then, that modern marketing techniques and the group's own predictability would make those songs the least exciting.
Sure it's good business to launch a tour with a TV special and live album ("The Dance"). But why then do you even have to go to the concert if you already know it will begin with "The Chain" and continue with "Dreams" and "Everywhere"?
Then again, the Mac has rarely pulled any surprises over the years, regardless of who's on board. We can pretty much guess that bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood will be wearing white shirts and black vests, and that singer Stevie Nicks will swirl around in platform shoes and veils.
Past tours have also made it very likely that at some point, Fleetwood will emerge from his drum kit to tap out a solo on electronic drum pads sewn into his vest in duet with another percussionist (Lenny Castro this time).
And that the main set will end with "Go Your Own Way," with "Don't Stop" as the first encore before Christine McVie solos at the piano for a quiet "Songbird."
The big difference this time was singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, but even his solo moments seemed plugged in. Crazed acoustic renditions of "Big Love" and a flamenco "Go Insane" were familiar to those who saw him at the Huntridge theater in 1993.
Whatever the concert lacked in originality, it balanced with polish. It's one of those concerts where you know you're in the hands of old pros, and that the sound and performances -- smoothed out by three utility musicians and a singer who stuck discreetly in the shadows -- will be immaculate.
Nicks, who's turned in some flat and froggy vocals in past Las Vegas concerts, sounded as good as she probably ever will.
Her standout moments were a new lead-in to "Rhiannon" and a touching "Landslide" accompanied only by ex-partner Buckingham on guitar.
Christine McVie always makes her warm, confident vocals seem so easy it was tempting to take songs such as a rootsy reworking of "Say You Love Me" for granted.
It was left to Buckingham to provide the manic energy and whatever sense of danger there is in the band.
Songs such as the oddball "My Little Demon" revealed a warped pop genius along the lines of Brian Wilson -- one reason why the group may have chosen the Beach Boys' "Farmer's Daughter" for a final encore.
And his interaction with Fleetwood actually suggested a band at work rather than five individuals doing their own thing.
New or less familiar songs such as "Temporary One" and "Bleed to Love Her" suggested the band -- whatever its future -- still has a way to go before it catches up to the classics, however.