Monday, November 20, 2017
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Review: Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie revive Fleetwood Mac magic, minus the drama, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

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Here's the beautiful thing about a concert by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, as opposed to a concert by Fleetwood Mac: There's no drama.

There is no forced theatricality, no overwrought play-acting, no nostalgic dance to dance for the graying, paying Boomers in the crowd.

Instead what you get is two old friends playing music – some of it old, some of it new, and all of it, more often than not, with a smile.

"This is not something we really saw coming," Buckingham said during their Thursday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. "It was kind of a surprise."

Indeed it was, McVie's return to Fleetwood Mac in 2014 after a 15-year-absence. Rejoining the band rekindled McVie's creative spirit, and she and Buckingham – two of the Mac's primary songwriters, along with Stevie Nicks – paired off for this year's album Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, and a smaller-venue tour as a duo. Call it Halfwood Mac – not the full experience, but pleasantly different and fulfilling.

MORE: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie talk Fleetwood Mac's 'Dysfunctional Family' before Clearwater show

Buckingham, 68, and McVie, 74, opened with four acoustic duets, him on guitar and her on keys, an intimate staging that showed off the husky humanity in their voices. There was Buckingham's delicate solo number Trouble; Fleetwood Mac's rarely played 1982 track Wish You Were Here, the newer Buckingham single Shut Us Down and the iconic Rumours single Never Going Back Again, with Buckingham's voice flaring from a whisper to a snarl in an instant. Together they harmonized with the ease of old partners, every so often you'd catch one grinning or clapping for the other.

Certainly, Buckingham's showiest tendencies at times overwhelmed the stage – I'm So Afraid, for example, which ballooned and bloated into a monstrous, bluesy shredfest, with the singer kicking, vamping and screaming until he was left hunched and panting at the end. But when it works, it definitely works. Tusk, that furious, tribal freight train of an anthem, got people dancing in the aisles down front, so much so that an accordion-rocking McVie shimmied over to dance with them.

McVie's voice bore a touch of rust from her years off the road, but she wore it honestly on Little Lies, Everywhere and You Make Loving Fun, gamely enlivening their sweet, springy spirit. And it fared better on songs from the new album. Two of the album's best – the sock-hoppy Feel About You and gentle, California-coastal Red Sun – sounded like classic McVie.

"Exchanging ideas across the ocean," Buckingham said of the demos that led to their dual album, "we knew right away that there was something, that there was a spark."

Watching McVie and Buckingham play together, it seemed like that spark hadn't dimmed. Buckingham sidled up to McVie on the spry and springy You Make Loving Fun, and she gave him a happy little pat on the back. He did so again on Go Your Own Way, leaning into her until they embraced in a brotherly-sisterly hug.

This tour may be the only time Buckingham and McVie play their new duets live, but when Fleetwood Mac reconvenes for what could be its farewell tour in 2018, they should bring that camaraderie with them. All the drama gets old after a while. Just a few good songs and a few genuine songs between old friends, well, that could be a beautiful thing.

— Jay Cridlin

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