The last time I saw Fleetwood Mac in San Jose, there was a near-riot—and it wasn’t because people were trying to get in. When the U.K./American outfit played the half-empty, three-thousand capacity San Jose Civic Auditorium in January 1974, somebody must have thought the local residents were pretty stupid. The band that followed warm-up combo Silverhead (fronted by Michael DesBarres, husband of famed tell-all author/groupie Pamela DesBarres) onstage was definitely not Fleetwood Mac. We’d seen their photos, bought their records, and these were five guys named Moe. Patrons immediately stormed the box office, demanding their money back and were told that the band’s manager, Clifford Davis, who owned the name “Fleetwood Mac,” had fired the original members and hired an all-new lineup. Sign this list, kid, and you’ll be mailed a full refund. Still waiting for that check.
The itch was finally scratched last night when Fleetwood Mac played to a near-capacity crowd of more than 20 thousand at cavernous H.P. Pavilion, home of the San Jose Sharks. Lindsey Buckingham and Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks climbed onboard the Mac express in 1975 and shepherded the group through its superstar period during a 10-year run. Buckingham and Nicks reminisced onstage about their local connections. Both attended Menlo-Atherton High School in Menlo Park in the late ’60s, San Jose State in the early ’70s, then cut their only Buckingham Nicks album in 1973. “When we played the Fillmore West opening for Quicksilver Messenger Service,” said Nicks, “Bill Graham screamed at a guy who was heckling me, ‘Get out of my Fillmore and don’t ever come back!’ That’s when I knew we were going somewhere.” Dressed in her trademark, free-flowing ensemble, Nicks spoke warmly of the boyfriend/girlfriend days she spent with Buckingham, dedicating the band’s ’82 hit “Gypsy” to “the paper roses, the house we had in Los Gatos and the gypsies that we were.” Nicks, who just turned 60, tentatively tried a pirouette on ’76 smash “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)” but gave up about halfway through. With her voice as strong as ever, it’s probably time to think about switching from playing Ophelia to a long run as Lady MacBeth.
Buckingham, a year younger than Nicks, proved especially feisty, reeling off a juicy guitar break on “Dreams” (“Thunder only happens when it’s raining”) and a solid vocal turn on a re-tooled version of “Oh Well,” a searing, stop-and-start blues number first cut by the 1970 version of Fleetwood Mac that featured guitartists Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. It was also a treat to hear Nicks perform onetime Mac singer/keyboardist Christine McVie’s showcase number “Say You Love Me.” A hired keyboard player did his best to replace the USC marching band, the original accompanist (recorded at Dodger Stadium) for stirring 1979 number “Tusk,” a revered highlight of the Mac’s masterpiece double album of the same name.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie (the band’s original namesakes) remain in place, with the stork-like Fleetwood, dressed in black knickers and red shoes, particularly nimble on a gavotte-styled bow that followed big hit “Go Your Own Way.” Everyone knew what the encore would be—the only ace in the deck they hadn’t dealt. 1977 classic “Don’t Stop” gained a second life as the campaign theme song for Bill Clinton in 1992. It sounded every bit as exciting in the first term of Barack Obama.