Fleetwood Mac celebrated founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood’s birthday Monday with several thousand fans at Time Warner Cable Arena. With no opening act, the core group - now all well into their sixties - opened the two and a half hour set with a bouncy “Second Hand News” and the harmony-driven “The Chain.”
Although 2012 marked the 35th anniversary of its seminal “Rumours” album, the group seemed at its most reinvigorated playing new material like “Sad Angel” or celebrating its 1979 album “Tusk.” After noting how unconventional and confounding to record execs the 20-track double album was for its time, guitarist Lindsay Buckingham led the charge through “Not That Funny,” “Tusk,” “Sisters of the Moon,” and “Sara.”
The sprawling “Tusk” was met with a standing ovation. Even a member of the arena staff whose parents probably weren’t even in middle school when the album was released applauded and beamed as the lights went up and the crowd roared.
Stevie Nicks’ alto, which has long lacked the range she was capable of in her twenties and thirties, fared best on songs that favored her lower register. Songs like “Sara,” “Gypsy” and “Gold Dust Woman,” for instance, were more forgiving than her opening solo on “Dreams.” She donned shawls to depict characters like “Rhiannon” and soared during “Stand Back” - the only hit representing any of the band members’ solo work.
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The group seemed more relaxed and on its game than during its reunion at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in 2004. That may have been due to the venue (which it also played in 2009). The production featured a handful of projection screens, but the vibe was intimate for an arena show with the band members playing on the same level instead of having Fleetwood towering behind the rest of the group.
Buckingham was at the top of his game as well. Fleetwood called him the group’s mentor and inspiration while introducing the players during the encore. He’s right. Besides whipping out impressive classical and steel string guitar work and scale climbing solos played where the guitar neck meets its body and still sounding melodic instead of screechy, Buckingham oozed energy and charisma even while playing songs he’s played hundreds of times before.