In their sixth decade, Fleetwood Mac bring their drama down under
Joni Mitchell was twenty-six when she wrote Both Sides Now, a rumination on being on the brink of upheaval, of great change, and the fear of not being able to face what was to come. In 2000, a 57 year old Joni recorded an orchestral collection of covers – a concept album following a relationship from the heady days of lust through to ending and loss – which concluded with a re-interpretation of Both Sides Now; her voice richer and deeper, the words more knowing. The singer is accepting rather than apprehensive; satiated more than scared.
Stevie Nicks wrote Landslide at a similar age and crossroads point to Joni, when she had to decide whether to continue pursuing music with boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, or to go back to school. Stevie is now 71, and like Joni, performs the song with world-weariness and wisdom. The foreshadowing and self-awareness found in songs written forty years ago is just one reason I keep coming back to one of music’s most illustrious, turbulent and productive acts. Fleetwood Mac’s watershed masterpiece, 1977’s Rumours, was created by a five 20-somethings navigating divorce, infidelity, break-ups, global fame and kilograms of cocaine, yet overflows with masterful compositions, talent and life-truths that still resonate in 2019 with no dimmed light.
Still, into their 70s, the band members continue to antagonise and aggravate each other, as evidenced by the absence of classic line-up member Lindsey Buckingham. As Stevie performed Landslide for me (alright, and 20,000 others), she was accompanied by Crowded House’s Neil Finn, who along with Tom Petty player (and songwriter of 80s banger The Boys of Summer), Mike Campbell, joined John McVie, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood. Just beginning a mammoth Australian tour, and with a cumulative age of about 850, the band continues to draw enormous, varied audiences with their visceral chemistry, drama, and straight-up pop-rock masterpieces.
I was introduced to the band’s tapestry via a BBC documentary over a decade ago, which I would hyperlink here if not for a mysterious, and frankly inconvenient, YouTube disappearance. Immediately hooked by the triple threat of drama, talent and absolute bangers, my obsession has only crystallised as I understood the thread carried through five decades of their story: overcoming personal challenges and human pain, for some sort of higher purpose, can produce creative alchemy. I meditated on this mantra as I refrained from asking the mum on my right to watch the show with her own eyes rather than her glaring phone screen recording – remembering that $350 ticket prices can make people do silly things.
The void-of-filler Rumours provided much of the setlist, along with gems from before and after, including Everywhere, You Making Love Fun and Hold Me, but the main attraction is the band’s story, visible for all on stage. Age may have slightly mellowed the ‘can’t be with you/can’t be without you’ drama, but the music is tight, the eye glances are knowing, and Stevie’s Gold Dust Woman rapture is as entrancing as ever.
I don’t often attend concerts alone, but I’ve decided that seeing one of your favourite bands solo is a profound act of self-care, and I left the arena following Mick Fleetwood’s instruction to ‘take care of ourselves and each other’ feeling nourished.
On the fortnightly podcast I co-host (Aural Fixation, now available on iTunes and Spotify), we analyse a different album each episode through the lens of the queer experience. I’ve spent many a shower thinking through how we could shoe horn Rumours, Tusk or even Tango in the Night into the show, but there isn’t anything particularly queer on the band’s surface level, other than Stevie’s grand high witch of pop act and perhaps the cumulative mountain of drugs the band have snorted.
Regardless, I remain eternally fascinated by the ups and downs, the drama and the joy of everyday life that the band committed to song. Their lyrics and themes are universal: Everywhere is a three-minute re-enaction of love’s pure thrill and magic, Storms is an overwhelming journey through choosing self-love over pain, Don’t Stop is quite literally about picking yourself back up and carrying on.
I write this at twenty-eight years old, and while I doubt I’ll be pumping out my own Landslide any time soon, I know very well the feeling of reaching a crossroads, and feeling apprehensive yet excited about what’s yet to happen. I also know there’s a song in Fleetwood Mac’s back catalogue for every possible moment, need or want to come. Hang on, did anyone tell Joni and Stevie they were just going through their Saturn’s Return?
Fleetwood Mac performed at the Qudos Arena, Sydney, on Thursday 15 August, 2019. The band are still performing shows around Australia until September 9 – head here to purchase tickets!
- Hypnotized – a truly random early 70s bop written by a bloke called Bob Welch, who joined and left the band within two years. Honestly, banger
- Landslide – live at the VH1 Divas 2002 by Stevie Nicks with the Dixie Chicks, possibly my favourite rendition
- Don’t Stop – live in 1997 with a sensational high school marching band, to be heard to be believed