A couple of months ago, I saw Alice Cooper in concert (not the enshrined classic-lineup Alice Cooper Band, mind you, but it still counts in my book), making him, at the time, the latest member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I’ve seen live. By my best guess and after much obsessing, I believe this is the complete list: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen (Van Hagar, technically), Metallica, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Neil Young, Buddy Guy, the Pretenders, Black Sabbath, U2, R.E.M., Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy, Kiss and Nirvana.
In addition, I also caught the last song of Run-DMC at Hubbard Park in Iowa City in 1996 or ’97 (I’m calling that a reach), and even though it wasn’t Parliament-Funkadelic, I DID see George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. At Lollapalooza 2009, I caught a set by Lou Reed (in with the Velvet Underground, but not solo), and a few weeks back, even though I was in horrible position 150 yards from the stage, I caught Patti Smith at Riot Fest (counts in my book, since I was able to rock out to “Rock and Roll Nigger” just fine from where I was standing, thank you very much).
But last weekend, I knocked one of the biggest white whales off that Hall of Fame list when I saw Fleetwood Mac at the United Center in Chicago. For a guy who had Rumours in his ears as a small child, on to absolutely falling head over heels in love with Stevie Nicks and her solo records at the dawn of MTV, and finally getting smitten all over again when the reunion tour and album dropped in 1997, this was a long time coming.
And here are the reasons why this show scratched an enduring itch:
The world’s most underappreciated rhythm section
When you have bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, you have songs that have so much bottom, it almost makes you forget that they’re selling you this juggernaut of almost-sunny Southern California-style pop that took the universe by storm in the late 1970s and into the ’80s. There are doom metal bands that don’t get that much sturdy backbone from the rhythm section. It’s the most enduring part of the show, hands down.
Lindsey Buckingham, motherfucking guitar god
I don’t know how he does it. The way he plays. He doesn’t use a pick. He just does this thing, palm down, where he puts his thumb on the top string and flicks the other strings outward with his fingers. It kind of reminds me of the way my pal Jeremy (the one and only Citrus Head) used to pathetically try to play Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” on the guitar when we were 13. Except when Lindsey Buckingham does it, it’s pure shred. Listen to the solos on “The Chain” or “You Make Loving Fun” sometime, and then after that, WATCH him play those same solos. It’s insane. And then when he pulls out his acoustic guitar for his signature piece “Big Love,” it’s just a master class of guitar virtuosity. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Well, at least not until …
My dark princess
You know those lists married people started making of “five people you can sleep with and NOT get divorced” (the Friends episode, you know you saw it)? Well, I always used to joke that the 1978 version of Stevie Nicks was at the top of my list. Hell, the 1981 version, at the dawn of MTV, when she made “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley – those are perfect goddamn rock and roll songs (yes, let’s pause and reminsce for a second):
Anyway, back to the present. Oh my. On Friday night, she sang “Dreams.” She sang “Rhiannon.” We got “Gypsy.” Who can forget “Landslide”? Jesus, her voice is still unique and strong. But the night was complete when she emerged from the shadows – in her gold shawl and fingerless lace gloves, doing her witchy pirouette as wind chimes rang out – for “Gold Dust Woman.” Lord have mercy, she was sex on a stick.
So yeah, I don’t need 1978 Stevie anymore. I’m just fine with 2014 Stevie, thanks.
And as incredible as she was, she was only the second best part of the night.
Christine McVie, thank you for coming back
I’ve been trying to see Fleetwood Mac live ever since that 1997 reunion. For whatever reason, it never seemed to work out. I see now that was a blessing in disguise.
You see, Christine McVie retired from the band after that outing and stayed sidelined for 16 years. I love Stevie, but I can’t imagine hearing “Don’t Stop” or any other Mac anthem on which Christine is featured prominently with anyone’s voice BUT Christine’s. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out.
We got everything we wanted from her this weekend (well, except “Hold Me.” My favorite Mac song. A Christine staple, in my book. Unfortunately, they didn’t play it. So I’m just gonna tuck this here so my experience with the band can be all-inclusive):
But yeah … “You Make Loving Fun” was majestic. “Say You Love Me” and “Everywhere” were enchanting. Even “Little Lies,” which has never been one of my favorites, sounded bad-ass and downright heavy live.
But when she closed the show with “Songbird,” her signature piece, it made me thankful I had to wait 16 years to experience this band. I can’t say this enough: If you want to see this band, do it. Now. Don’t wait. You may have seen them before, but maybe it was without Christine. Right now? She’s back. You might not get another chance.
Waited a lifetime to see this band. It was worth the wait.
Fleetwood Mac was an enormous part of a memorable night. But they weren’t the only part …
Talk about a lifetime meeting
Once upon a time, I had this friend named Molly. We met when I was still wet behind the ears, still trying to figure out who I was gonna be as a freshman away from home for the first time at the University of Iowa.
I met her when I was taking freshman rhetoric (which is strange, because she wasn’t a freshman), one of those classes that are interactive and encourage people to share ideas (I always justified her being in this class as her being awesome enough to say, “Fuck it. I’m just gonna take my rhetoric requirement when I’m a sophomore because I can do whatever the fuck I want.”). Anyway, instead of just lumping myself in with the other kids I assumed were like me, this blonde bombshell locked eyes with me and motioned for me to come on over. What the actual fuck? Girls like this who didn’t already know me from before do NOT seek ME out. But for reasons I still don’t understand, this girl wanted to be friends with me, not the other way around.
As I got to know her, she just killed me. She was funny. She was inclusive and engaging. Witty and articulate. Intelligent. And oh yeah, hot. Always with the black leather jacket. I seem to remember she liked to drink whiskey and take shots of Jager. One day, some dude picked her up in front of the English-Philosophy Building on his motorcycle, like she was the bad girl in Grease or something, and I just remember saying, “Jesus Christ, she’s so fucking bad-ass.” I shook my head and chuckled and just kept walking to class, realizing I had some work to do in life if I ever wanted THAT.
We were never the kind of friends who called each other or made plans together. But for the next two years, we didn’t just keep walking if we saw each other on the street. Every single time, we stopped and talked. If we saw each other out and about, we ended up getting drinks and ignoring everyone else we went to the bar with. Because of her and who she is and how she acts and because she invited me over upon seeing me in that class after 25 seconds, I’ve never really been afraid to approach anyone if I felt like I wanted to know them, even if they were “out of my league.” That was Molly.
In the fall of 1994, I remember seeing her on the street between Van Allen Hall and the Que Bar. We talked. I remember I was holding a poster I had just bought for my first apartment (I think it was of Janis Joplin at Woodstock). After a few minutes, we said, “see ya later.”
Then … whoosh, she was gone. I never saw her again in the entire time I was at Iowa. I figured she must have graduated. Or transferred. Whatever …
And then 14 years came and went. I mean, there wasn’t always Google. Or Friendster or MySpace. Once she was gone, I had no idea how to find her. She was gone.
I hate giving it too much credit, but what’s true is true – Facebook changed it. Mark Zuckerberg will always have my eternal gratitude for that. I found her there six years ago, in an exchange that will always makes me smile when I think about it. Ever since then, we share birthday greetings. We talk about the Hawks. I see photos of her doing BTN fun runs in Iowa gear, complete with knee-high gold Hawkeye socks. She sees me posting links to my blogs at Music or Space Shuttle? and blathering on about whatever movies, TV shows or records I’m currently loving or hating.
But we still never talked, let alone actually saw each other.
What does this have to do with Fleetwood Mac?
Friday night, for the first time in 20 years, Molly and I hung out again. In person. The Mac brought us together. We had drinks. We caught up. I got to hang with her and her girlfriends, one of which went to Riot Fest like me … however, she did NOT skip Slayer for Jane’s Addiction like I regretfully did (which, by the way, when she said it, was the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard. Chicks who dig metal … swoon).
So it was a glorious night. I just hope I don’t have to wait 20 years to do it again.