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Fleetwood Mac Is Batman

The band performed at Madison Square Garden and we realized that they're not always the band we want, but they're the band we need.
October 8, 2014, 4:43pm

via Instagram

When I moved to New York fresh out of college, I spent the first couple years working at a pizzeria down the street from my apartment in Brooklyn. I was interning my butt off for free at various publications in every corner of the city, barely making my rent by serving regular slices and topping pies every night and weekend. It sucked. But it was one of the most defining periods of my life—teaching me how to make small talk with strangers, how to defuse angry situations, how to think quickly on my feet, and how to generally handle myself. I was pulling in just enough cash to scrape by while I got my ass kicked by the media world. And during that time, there was one record that was listened to in the pizzeria on almost a daily basis. That record was Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.

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This wasn’t the first time I’d heard or appreciated the record, of course. On top of it being one of the most popular albums of all time, I grew up in a music lovers’ household, with Stevie Nicks’s voice—alongside others of the era like Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, and more—soundtracking the majority of my youth. But something about hearing “The Chain” or “Never Going Back Again” while serving pepperoni slices to impatient Brooklynites helped me see Rumours in a different light. This wasn’t just music for me and my memories and thinking about driving with my parents on the interstate across Nebraska when we’d go on vacation. This was music that was and is for, well, pretty much everyone. Every day we’d flip it on, with that familiar kick of “Second Hand News” starting up, and a customer—whether it was some 23-year-old millennial hipster kid who’d just moved to the neighborhood or a 64-year-old regular local who’d never stepped outside of the neighborhood—would be bound to say something with a smile: “Oh, Stevie? Good choice, guys. Now gimme some garlic knots and I’ll take that to go.”

Yesterday Fleetwood Mac took the stage of Madison Square Garden for the second night in a row on its first tour featuring Christine McVie in 16 years. And truthfully, there’s not much that hasn’t been written about Fleetwood Mac. They have delivered one of the most influential and important musical outputs of the last 40 years. But you know that, because you have listened to the radio and you have seen a copy of Rolling Stone and you have existed within the world of popular culture so there’s no real point to me telling you why Tusk or Fleetwood Mac or Tango in the Night are significant. They just are. The trio of songwriting from McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks gives the group a beautifully diverse sound—but one that still feels cohesive and focused due to the strength of the rhythm section in John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

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Last night, they channeled all of this while celebrating the return of Christine, delivering sharp renditions of “You Make Loving Fun,” “Rhiannon,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “World Turning,” and “Silver Springs.” They finished the night (which was a second encore, by the way) with Christine center stage, delivering a lovely version of “Songbird” on a grand piano. The night was just fun. Mick wore knickers and red shoes (and the two balls he sports on the cover of Rumours), dancing around like an extra jolly and skinnier version of Santa Claus. Lindsey delivered empowered speeches about the band and its music enduring, and then follow that by fingerpicking the hell out of every song. And Stevie wore a top hat, and a shawl, and a flowing black dress as she magically floated around on stage, guiding us into her poetic and enchanted world.

But outside of creating music that you just know—the set last night reminded me just how many super famous songs Fleetwood Mac has put out in their career, with me consistently saying things to myself like, “Oh shit, I forgot about ‘Gypsy!’”—the group’s personal life has intertwined so publicly with its music that it has influenced the way multiple generations think about love and romance. Throughout the years, there have been so many questionable relationships within the group, whether it’s Stevie and Lindsey or Christine and John or Mick and Stevie or the other rumored relationship dramas—so much so that their most iconic Rolling Stone cover from 1977 is all of them not-so-subtly lying in the same bed.

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What’s more is that it’s become part of their act, bringing to life a world of sweet little lies, laying down in the tall grass, and making loving fun. For instance, there's the rendition of “Silver Springs” from their 1997 concert film, The Dance, during which the last two minutes Stevie and Lindsey stare each other the fuck down while singing the refrain in harmony: “Time casts a spell on you, but you won’t forget me / I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me / I’ll follow you til’ the sound of my voice will haunt you / You’ll never get away from the sound of a woman that haunts me.”

At Madison Square Garden, they did this same thing—and although it’s rehearsed, although it’s showmanship, although these two are making a ton of money on this tour by acting like star-crossed lovers despite the fact that Lindsey is happily married and Stevie is rumored to be his kids' godmother, there’s still some sort of weird underlying truth that rings in the music.

Because that’s what Fleetwood Mac is. Or maybe, at least, that’s just one of the things that Fleetwood Mac is. Similar to Batman, Fleetwood Mac isn’t always the band that we want, but it’s the band that we always need, whether that’s on the radio while driving down the interstate or playing on the radio in the dining room of a pizzeria or whatever memory you have of this band doing something for you once upon a time. Yesterday was my parents’ 34th wedding anniversary. Part of me recognizes that me seeing this timeless group of musicians perform love songs in its most recognizable lineup in a legendary space like Madison Square Garden on the same day my parents celebrate eternal love for each other is a coincidence, but part of me wants to note how Goddamn poetic that is. Because in that moment, that’s what I needed them to be. The band members all might be old. There might be a few bald spots. But Lindsey still screams while he plays guitar. Christine still croons like a songbird. Mick still kicks. John still pulses. And Stevie, well, Stevie still twirls.

Setlist:
The Chain
You Make Loving Fun
Dreams
Second Hand News
Rhiannon
Everywhere
I Know I’m Not Wrong
Tusk
Sisters of the Moon
Say You Love Me
Seven Wonders
Big Love
Landslide
Never Going Back Again
Over My Head
Gypsy
Little Lies
Gold Dust Woman
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way

First encore:
World Turning
Don’t Stop
Silver Springs

Second Encore:
Songbird

Eric Sundermann can go his own way. Eric Sundermann is on Twitter.