Review: Buckingham, McVie stay close to Fleetwood Mac at Northerly Island

Ask someone if they’re a fan of Fleetwood Mac and they might respond with “which one?” From the start the group’s been marked by constantly shifting line-ups, sometimes radically so. Even the band’s best known (and best selling) ’70s line-up eventually gave way, through acrimony and attrition, to endless permutations of the group’s by-then familiar five members.

Which brings us to “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie,” an album credited to those titular principals and technically not a Fleetwood Mac record, but confusingly and conspicuously featuring the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. While billed as something separate (and missing Stevie Nicks), much of it wouldn’t be terribly out of place on a Fleetwood Mac record.

That put the pair of Buckingham and McVie, performing at Northerly Island Monday night, in the precarious position of making a case for the new album as something other than Fleetwood Mac without shying away from many of Mac’s hits. That didn’t stop Buckingham from further complicating matters, starting the show with his melancholy solo career gem “Trouble.” Played at a hushed crawl with minimal accompaniment from McVie, the arrangement unfortunately accented the modest attendance, and a handful of further slow, spare songs — even the redoubtable “Never Going Back Again” — failed to fully capture the crowd’s attention.

Things perked up, however, when the rest of the band of session ringers emerged to play much of the new album, followed by a few of Fleetwood Mac’s best known hits, indelible songs such as “Little Lies” and “Hold Me” that not only shifted the emphasis to the otherwise underutilized McVie and her smoky lead vocals, but highlighted how well they’ve always blended with Buckingham’s high-strung bark. In this context new songs such as “Feel About You” and “In My World” felt like a real continuation of the pair’s collaboration rather than a new take on it, if not quite on par with the lovely “Everywhere” then certainly strong enough to make you wonder if the duo album might have made a good Mac album after all.

If the headstrong and restless Buckingham has always seemed content to do his own thing, certainly McVie seemed to recognize the “almost there” quality of this current project. She introduced the aptly titled last song of the night “Game of Pretend” with a sheepish “this is not ‘Songbird,'” acknowledging the albatross of Fleetwood Mac’s legacy.

Joshua Klein is a freelance critic.


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