For the better part of 40 years, Fleetwood Mac revolved around the triangle of singer/songwriters Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Yet beyond their songs, their contrasting musical personalities made the Mac click, and Buckingham additionally stood out as a unique guitarist with his jabbing, finger-picking style.
But when onetime paramour Nicks decreed that she could no longer work with Buckingham, who didn’t want to hit the road as soon as the rest of the group, Fleetwood Mac moved on without him for a world tour. The band filled his slot with the combination of guitar hotshot Mike Campbell (the late Tom Petty’s foil in the Heartbreakers) and Crowded House singer/songwriter Neil Finn.
How the Mac played on for a packed TD Garden on Sunday (with a second date coming on Tuesday) was an equation of well-balanced if mixed results—and vivid highlights.
“Chain, keep us together,” band members sang in steadfast opener “The Chain,” which began with the beat of Mick Fleetwood’s bass drum enlarged on the backdrop and Campbell swaying his hand like a conductor to cue the vocal entrance. Fleetwood and co-founding bass partner John McVie accelerated its slinky drop and the Mac was off and running. Nonetheless, things seemed a tad rote as the night’s song shuffle began with Christine McVie’s “Little Lies,” Nicks’ “Dreams,” and Finn lending a fine-enough vocal to Buckingham’s “Second Hand News.”
The show didn’t truly pick up until the band—which survived spells without Buckingham or Christine McVie in prior decades—dug deeper into its 1960s origins, unveiling “Black Magic Woman,” written by the Mac’s Peter Green yet popularized by Santana. Nicks laid back on the vocal, but Campbell led a bluesy jam with stinging guitar — even though he lacked Buckingham’s biting take on later oldie “Oh Well” with his brisk sheets of notes and own modest vocal. Campbell’s best moments often came more subtly, ringing sweet solos in McVie confections like “Hold Me” or lacing Nicks’ “Gypsy” with volume-knob swells and notes punched on a zither-like Marxophone.
For his part, Finn inserted his own electric guitar licks but most notably delivered on an acoustic soliloquy of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” enthralling the crowd even before Nicks sauntered out to turn it into a magic duet. “A song like that comes along once in a lifetime,” she noted, then Finn congratulated Nicks on her solo induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame two nights earlier, and the love fest continued as he fingerpicked to her sublime reading of “Landslide.”
Yes, to some degree, the rejiggered Mac was all about Nicks, particularly when she managed the night’s most shiver-inducing highpoint with “Gold Dust Woman.” She traded its howl for shadowy incantations, stalked the stage, and raised arms draped with a luminous golden shawl to evoke butterfly wings in the swirly light.
No one mentioned Buckingham (who’s since recovering from heart surgery), but Fleetwood—who brought the two-plus-hour set to an early peak with his rolling, crowd-pumping drum solo in a midpoint “World Turning”—gushed of the history that the new guys brought to the table. And within the broadened nostalgia factor that included Finn’s Crowded House gem, there was a bittersweet touch as well.
To start the encore, Nicks sang Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” which made perfect sense for both her and Campbell, as photos of them with their longtime friend and collaborator projected above. With the Rolling Stones postponing a tour for Mick Jagger’s health and core members of Fleetwood Mac also in their 70s, it’s a reminder for both musicians and fans to cherish what endures while they can.