Review: Fleetwood Mac in Cleveland 10-26-18
Disclaimer: This is a conspiracy free review. To those who insist that the positive reviews coming out of these shows are somehow tainted, I received no money from Irving Azoff, Fleetwood Mac or anybody else to write this. In fact, I forked over approximately a shit ton of money in order to be at this show, to witness for myself what this new line-up has to offer. This is my honest review as someone who has attended a show.

And, to quote their closing song last night, I’d do it all over again.

As soon as I bought my ticket last week, I knew that I had made the right decision. I knew going to a show was the right thing for me. The black pit that had been anchoring me to angst for the last six months disappeared. I had to see John and Christine again. I couldn’t not, no matter what had happened with Lindsey. They’re too important to me. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go, no matter what other feelings I might end up having about the other people on stage with them, I knew that I had to go, at least for The McVies. 

So, let me wrangle up and escort the elephant from the room: Topping my list of trepidations going in was how I would feel about Mike Campbell and Neil Finn once I was at the show. I have become a pretty big fan of both these men over these last six months, somehow, despite their new gig replacing one of the most important men of my life, in the most important band of my life, after it had been viciously torn apart without warning. (Dramatic enough?) It’s one thing for me to dig Neil’s music or enjoy Mike with the Heartbreakers, but witnessing them in the flesh on stage where Lindsey once stood, playing and singing the songs Lindsey once played and sang, his songs? I honestly wasn’t sure, man... 

But those crickets.

As soon as the lights dimmed and the crickets ramped up, I felt that overwhelming rush of magic. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. Fleetwood’s dogs? Maybe Mick’s just got subliminal messages hidden in those damn cricket sounds (loooove uuus buuuy moooore stufff), I don’t know, but my heart swelled and every feeling of apprehension I had going into the arena disappeared. Just like that. I saw their silhouettes appear in the darkness against the backdrop, six silhouettes, and I felt nothing but love. There was a time and a place for the anger and hurt and pain that came from the disbandment of the Rumours 5 but it wasn’t last night in Cleveland, Ohio. Because The Mac were back, and I was lucky enough to be there to witness it again. 

And I'll fight anyone who claims Mike Campbell can't play the guitar.

These six tore through a set list that, on paper, hadn’t made much sense to me at first. When the set list appeared on social media after opening night, I thought it was a bit of a mess, to be honest. I couldn’t see how the show would flow smoothly with those songs in that order. Part of me thinks I was just being petty and looking for things to pick on. Actually, I know I was being petty, because I was disturbed by the fact that I wasn’t hating what was coming out in the videos of those first shows. In fact, I liked some of it.

And the show flowed just fine because it was over far too soon for my liking. 

I was in section 3, row 1, seat 1, so I was closest to Mike and Neil. Yep. Smack dab between the stepdads. 

I’ve made no secret lately that I’ve come to quite adore Neil Finn. I think he is just the cutest - always seemingly happy, always smiling, funny, and his music is beautiful. All signs indicate that this man is genetically incapable of writing a bad song. 

I know that now. In April, I did not. I knew Don’t Dream It’s Over and knew of Crowded House, but I didn’t know Neil by name. So to go from angrily shouting, “Who the FUCK is Neil Finn?” six months ago when it was announced he was joining up in place of Lindsey to going without food (not really) in order to stand within reaching (and “woo hoo Neil!”’ing) distance of him last night? I’ve got a serious case of emotional whiplash. (Shout out to my friend Tracy for inventing, “You Make Loving Finn”.)

Neil has emerged as a leader in this group. As a new fan, it makes me proud to see him step up for these people that I've loved for so long. His voice is strong and his confidence is apparent. The crowd welcomed his Don't Dream It's Over, which was rivaled only by Landslide in crowd participation. His vocals on Danny Kirwan's Tell Me All The Things You Do were stellar. He and Christine teamed up for that one, and what a nice McFinn lovers treat. His I Got You, a duet with Stevie, was one of my favorite songs of the night. 

Neil has a unique and spontaneous energy and style, he's down right bouncy at times, even stealing Stevie's signature twirl from time to time. That brought a genuine smile to my face. He reminded me a lot of Paul McCartney, especially with that floppy head of hair. I got a laughy-smile and a nod from him when he caught me watching him and I waved to him like a moron.

Not even Second Hand News, Monday Morning, or Go Your Own Way pissed me off. I thought for sure I would have some sort of a meltdown during those songs. But I didn’t. I thought Neil did a more than fine job on them. We can argue ad nauseum about the impact of him singing these songs with Stevie, as they don’t have the romantic history together or any history together, and those arguments have some validity. 

But there seems to be a genuine chemistry developing between these two: band mates who appreciate each other. There will never be that intense, biting chemistry between them, no. But, hot damn, sometimes that tension was too much. It certainly was in 2015. It took seeing the freshness and freedom this new lineup enjoys together to really realize how much tension there was on that last tour. There were times when it was clear Stevie would rather have been anywhere but on that stage with Lindsey. We know now that was exactly true. And so yes the argument can be made that it should have been her to exit Fleetwood Mac. I’ve made the argument myself, more than once. 

But this is where we’re at now. And as much as that woman can piss me off, she did her Gold Dust Woman dance right in front of me last night and I’ll be damned if I didn’t cheer for her. I didn’t think I did but I just watched the video and I sure did. At 70 years old, that woman is sexier than I ever have been or ever will be, and there’s something undeniably amazing about watching her that up close cast her spells on the crowd. 

Props where they’re due but, you know...whatever.

Mick did his drum solo during World Turning, including coming out front of the stage with his bongo. So, there was that. 

Stevie dedicated Landslide to the service dog of a woman she’d met recently at a hand doctor’s appointment. Neil finger-picked Landslide and sang along to himself, smiling every time the crowd’s singing roared. At the end of the song, the duo came together, arms outstretched toward each other. A roadie stepped right into my line of sight at this moment (grrr) but I think Neil kissed her on the cheek. Maybe they just squeezed hands but there appeared to be a leaning in. I wonder what it’s like to be these people whose every actions we scrutinize like this? 

I’ve known of Mike Campbell for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never had anything but nice thoughts for him, but my focus was always on Tom Petty in that world. I knew Mike was a talented guitarist but I didn’t really appreciate it until he started playing “my” Fleetwood Mac’s songs. And come to find out, he’s an absolute sweetheart too. Halfway through Dreams last night, early on in the show, he handed me the pick he was playing with. He leaned over and held it out, waiting for me to reach up and take it from him. 

Looking up at him as I took it, through his sunglasses, I could see that he was looking me right in the eyes. I can’t imagine he knew how much I adore Lindsey (unless he recognized Lindsey’s pick around my neck, heh) or how much I fought attending a show, but it sure did seem like a gesture of appreciation from him to me for giving him a chance. It was so touching. Later on in the show, he tossed picks out to other people but, as far as I could see, I was the only one he handed one to directly. I’ll remember that moment always. It was yet another moment in a long line of magical moments care of Fleetwood Mac. 

This is going to be the hardest part for me. I’ve been saying since (reluctantly) getting on board with the new guys that, no, they aren’t Lindsey, but that doesn’t have to mean they’re bad. It’s just a different sound than with Lindsey but it’s... okay. I say now: Mike and Neil are good. Very good. Period. On their own and when they’re playing together. They deserve to be talked about in their own right without comparisons to Lindsey, but of course those comparisons are inevitable and understandable given the situation. In any case, they were a dynamic team and there's a genuine warmth between them. They seem to truly like each other and their roles in the band.

It felt like a Fleetwood Mac show to me. And I would suspect the capacity crowd felt much the same, judging from the cheers and applause they received. Cleveland brought the house down for all of Fleetwood Mac. I never quite understood what they were going for with the “new band” thing. I thought it was a slap in the face, frankly. But I get it now: Love us or hate us but do it because of what we are, not because of what was. I find myself hoping these six manage to make new music together so that we’re given a genuine opportunity to do just that. 

Lastly: Was it a technically perfect show? No. I’m going back through the videos I recorded: Christine’s voice isn’t what it used to be. Stevie’s voice is strong but her range is kaput. Mick has Taku to supplement his sound. An amp blocked him from my view for most of the night, but I think John is still over there be-bopping away all on his own but he’s John. He's got this. He was even smiling last night?

But here’s the thing: These imperfections make it that much more special. And these imperfections would exist even if Lindsey was still in the band. And for this fan, that's okay.

I wasn’t even alive yet when Fleetwood Mac was in their heyday. I don’t recognize that Fleetwood Mac as my Fleetwood Mac. I’ve only ever known and loved an aging Fleetwood Mac. And like the Skin Horse tells the Velveteen Rabbit: “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real...Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 

I understand. I heard none of these imperfections while I was in that arena. I felt only magic. Fleetwood Mac will never be ugly to me because they have become Real. I have loved them for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loved. I will adore them always. I will love them long after their eyes drop out and they become very shabby. I will choose to see Christine sing Everywhere, and Little Lies, and You Make Loving Fun with an imperfect voice over a perfect voice that is not Real. 

So maybe it’s the music itself, in the end. I thought Fleetwood Mac meant Lindsey, Stevie, Christine, Mick & John to me. To the lost girl who discovered this band 21 years ago, it will always mean those five to me. 

But grown up me gets lost too. It gets a bit chaotic in here at times and Fleetwood Mac has always been able to calm me down. It did it again last night. I had nothing but soul-cleansing tears left for them by the time they got to Free Fallin’ and that’s not even a Fleetwood Mac song. But it was Fleetwood Mac playing it, a Fleetwood Mac that now includes Tom Petty’s lifelong friend and musical partner. And with Tom’s image throughout the years flashing on the screen, a story high behind them, it was a glaring reminder that none of this will last forever. 

So I’ll appreciate it. I’ll appreciate them, the five and the six, for as long as we are these energies here in this life together. 

Nothing else really matters for me, in the end.

Link to videos from last night: