Fleetwood Mac in Atlantic City

Before I really get into this blog post I have a confession to make. I’m not entirely sure I own any music by Fleetwood Mac. If I do it’s no more than few random singles. I certainly have never bought a Fleetwood Mac album. I’m sure my parents must have owned an album or two when I was a kid, but I’ve personally never owned one. Part of this is because Fleetwood Mac was largely done recording new music or at least anything the majority of people were paying attention to when I was still a small child. Fleetwood Mac has always been a part of my life because they’ve had tons of hits existing out in the ether that are still constantly played on the radio. They’ve been pervasive throughout my life without me giving much actual thought to them.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I think I actually started thinking about them rather than just having their music live in the background of my life when Glee did their episode based on the album Rumors. I remember deciding to actually listen to the entire Rumors album on Spotify because of that and thinking that it is, as I had always heard, a really great album. Then  a few years ago when I watched the Sound City documentary, which they were heavily featured in, and I became even more interested.

At some point last year they announced their new tour and that for the first time in 17 years Christine McVie would be touring with them. That on top of the fact that Mick Fleetwood was (maybe still is, I don’t know) battling cancer made me realize that if I wanted to see them live, now would be the time do it. Baltimore, which is sandwiched between DC and Philly rarely gets big shows of it’s own (or even the better little shows). They announced a DC date at the time that I couldn’t go to because it was during the same time we were going to be Austin, so I opted for tickets to the Philly date instead.

The concert in Philly was on a Wednesday night, which was not ideal but I went for it. Then that week rolled around and the thought of going up there in the middle of the work week was making me feel exhausted. Plus that day was an insane rain storm around here that I suspected correctly would make traffic a nightmare. Had we actually gone we probably would have missed half the show sitting in traffic trying to get up there. I saw somehow that they had added a date in Atlantic City on a Saturday that was still in presale for AmEx holders, which we are. I checked to see if I tickets were available, which they were, and put up the Philly tickets for sale on StubHub figuring if they sold I would buy the Atlantic City tickets instead. Everything worked out as I hoped, and I figured we could go up and stay in Atlantic City for the night instead of having to drive up to Philly and back on weeknight. At some point after that they added an additional DC show for January that we could have gone to, but at that point I figured it was just better to stick with the plan we had. In addition to that, I think that Boardwalk Hall was actually a much nicer place to the show than the Verizon Center in DC or the Wells Fargo Center in Philly would have been.

We didn’t actually wind up staying in Atlantic City proper because all the casino hotels were between $300 and $400 for the night and I wasn’t willing to pay that much. Plus Atlantic City casinos as it turns out are more spread out than I would have expected. Pretty much except for one casino we would have had to drive from the hotel to Boardwalk Hall anyway, so I figured we could stay a few miles out of town for much cheaper and it would be fine.

I was a little nervous about the concert as I worry about larger arena shows. I find that once bands start playing larger venues they start relying more on theatrics and cool stage tricks to entertain the audience rather than focusing on the music (hi U2 I’m very much looking at you). I couldn’t give a crap about all of that. I want to hear the music and hopefully have the band engage the audience by talking to them and telling stories about their songs. They did have a screen on the back of the stage that played videos to coordinate with the songs, but it wasn’t anything over the top. It was in the background as it should have been, and for me sitting on the side of the stage that screen was really only in the side of my vision anyway.  The show really was all about the music, and they did just enough storytelling about the writing of a few of their songs to make me happy.

My other concern was their age. Let’s face it sometimes aging rockers just can’t put on a show like they used to. They can’t hit the notes anymore, and it’s just very obvious that they aren’t on the top of their game anymore. I mean I could definitely tell that I wasn’t seeing Fleetwood Mac in their heyday, but for their age they really put on a hell of a show. They’re still very active on stage and the only song that didn’t seem quite right to me was “Rhiannon”. I’m not sure what the deal was. It was almost like Steve Nicks was in the wrong key, but then also singing the notes down when she should have been going up. I don’t know. Something just felt very off to me with it.

It also seems like time may have taken it’s toll on Lindsey Buckingham’s hands. It wasn’t really noticeable at all in his playing, but prior to singing “Big Love” he told the story about writing it and the whole time he was shaking out his hand and flexing it seemingly trying to prepare it and psych himself up for the amount of picking on the guitar that he does during that song.

They played for almost three hours and it’s a sign just how ubiquitous their music has been throughout my life that despite never really having listened to any of their albums, there were only 2 songs they played that I didn’t know. I was excited to see them play “Tusk”. For some reason that has become a popular song for other bands to cover in recent years, so I have seen several other bands play it live. I was happy to finally see Fleetwood Mac be the ones playing it for me.

I really just enjoyed hearing them play almost everything they did though. It was one of those nights where when every song started I was screaming YES! in my head. They have so much good music, and it was great to hear them play it and for them to still putting on a great show with it after 40 years.

I do think that the encore was the oddest one I have ever seen though. Each of the band members got a chance to shine with essentially a solo song, so it didn’t surprise me that Mick Fleetwood took a drum solo during their first encore song, “World Turning”, with all the other band members temporarily leaving the stage. However I did feel like it went on for far too long for my taste anyway. After that they played “Don’t Stop”, which seemed like the perfect song to end on and I thought at that point they would be done, but then Stevie and Lindsey came back out alone and sang “Silver Springs”. After they left the stage I figured that was it again and was thinking to myself they should have reversed those songs, but then Christine McVie came out and did “Songbird” solo on the piano. After that Stevie came out and told the story about how Christine came back to the band followed by Mick coming out alone and talking to us. Then that was it. So the encore was essentially two songs with the full band at the beginning, one of which had a big drum solo in the middle followed by 2 solo songs without the full band on stage and then the audience being talked to for 10 minutes. It was just kind of odd to me.

That being said though, the whole concert was even more than I had hoped for, so I’m really glad I went. Often seeing concerts I really like just makes me want to go see the band live again as soon as possible, but in this case I feel like this concert was the highlight and anything else would have diminishing returns. At this point they’re just working off their old music and playing the hits. You can look at the set list for any show on this tour and read the reviews and see they’re saying the same thing from the stage night after night, so I don’t think I would really get anything new out of seeing them again. Seeing them again would definitely not have the same joy as getting to hear all the songs that have been so pervasive throughout my life played live for the first time, so I’ll just consider this one crossed off my bucket list. If you’ve never seen them in concert though or if it’s been a really long time I would suggest going yourself if you get the chance though because Fleetwood Mac still has it even after all these years.

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