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MUSIC REVIEW

Golden dreams with Fleetwood Mac

Stevie Nicks fronted Fleetwood Mac last night. Stevie Nicks fronted Fleetwood Mac last night. (Michele McDonald/ Globe Staff)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / March 12, 2009
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With no new album to plug, Fleetwood Mac is on the road again for the best and right reason: to have fun with the band's 40-year catalog.

Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham admitted as much last night at the TD Banknorth Garden, which was just shy of selling out but long on fervent audience enthusiasm.

The 2-hour show didn't present the band's greatest hits in a new light, but rather was a striking reminder of their endurance. If I didn't already own them, I would have rushed out to buy "Rumours" and "Tusk" after realizing how timeless songs from those seminal albums still sound.

Fleetwood Mac has always thrived on, for better or worse, the dynamic among its members, and that tension was a vital part of the show's ebb and flow. Introducing "I Know I'm Not Wrong," Buckingham said the band has had "a complex and convoluted emotional history."

Case in point: After singing "Sara," Stevie Nicks sauntered over to Buckingham's microphone, peered into his eyes, and sang the last verse directly to him. Even though the song is more about Nicks's relationship at the time with Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham collapsed his head on her shoulder. Scripted or not, it was the evening's most poignant highlight. "We didn't rehearse that one," Buckingham said afterward, looking a bit flushed.

Nicks, ever the beloved rock goddess at 60, often kept her strength in the reserves. With her signature shawls and gold-flecked black scarves dangling from her mike stand, she was unusually tepid on "Dreams" early on but then a lively, black-magic woman on "Rhiannon" a few songs later. "Gold Dust Woman" ended with Nicks cast in silhouette, arms outstretched and her back, covered in long blond hair, to the audience.

Buckingham, however, was a man on fire, showing a youthful elasticity in his singing and guitar playing. He's 59 going on 40. Some songs were clearly tailor-made to showcase his guitar prowess, namely a bombastic take on "Big Love" and a searing, extended solo on "I'm So Afraid."

Meanwhile, every time the cameras caught him, Mick Fleetwood looked like the mischievous kid who had scampered onstage to pummel the drums on his favorite songs. Chrome-domed and still sporting a ponytail, he was the evening's designated ham - and eminently watchable. And bassist John McVie looked happy where he's always been: anchoring the group from the shadows. Fleetwood Mac's other anchor, Christine McVie, decided to skip this world tour.

Even without her, the band was at its most thrilling when all its members were in synch with the crowd. On "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop," you couldn't tell how much of the volume was coming from the stage or from the surround sound of stadium-size singalongs.

It says something, though, when an entire arena falls silent for spectral ballads such as "Landslide" and the evening's farewell, "Silver Springs." Sometimes the greatest hits, even with some dust on them, are indeed still the greatest.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

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