The lines to get into the Toyota Center Wednesday night for the Fleetwood Mac concert were unusually long and slow as security guards searched handbags for cameras and directed ticket holders inside to check the confiscated items at the counter. At a time when everyone has cell phones that can shoot photos, it seemed like a particularly clumsy directive.
"They're old people," a security guard explained, referring to the iconic band of the late 1970s as she directed my friend inside. "They don't want (pictures of themselves) out."
Indeed the band's longtime members, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood, are all north of 60 and looked a little long in the tooth as they burst onstage even before a lot of the audience had made it to their seats. But age didn't seem to matter as the band performed like new kids on the block in a nearly three-hour show that covered most of their greatest hits along with some poignant tunes that recalled as much of our wistful past as theirs.
With unparalleled guitar riffs and a voice that has grown stronger with age, Buckingham is certainly the heart of the band. But even with a diminished voice, Nicks remains the band's soul.
The band opened with several of their most popular hits, "Second Hand News," a perfect sing-along song, followed by somewhat sluggish versions of "The Chain" and "Dreams."After Buckingham introduced a song, "Sad Angel," from the band's new EP, the band returned to another classic, "Rhiannon," which showcases Nicks' voice but in a lower key, which, sadly to this ear, lacked the warmth and glow of her earlier work.
Buckingham then took center stage with a couple of songs from the band's experimental 1979 album, Tusk, the punk-tinged "Not That Funny" and the album's title tune, which delighted hardcore Fleetwood Mac fans among the sellout crowd.
With unparalleled guitar riffs and a voice that has grown stronger with age, Buckingham is certainly the heart of the band. But even with a diminished voice, Nicks remains the band's soul. And as the evening progressed, she dominated the stage, swathed in black, with blonde hair framing her face, a tambourine often on her arm and a whiskey-dipped voice that drew richer with each song.
She performed the little-known "Sisters of the Moon," also from the Tusk album, noting this song has not been done on a tour since 1981. She took control with a couple of other big hits, "Sara" and the hauntingly beautiful "Landslide," a duet with Buckingham, as the crowd sang along to the words,"I'm getting older, too."
Nicks dedicated the song to a Houston friend who had apparently fought off a debilitating illness since she was "teeny tiny." "You little Welsh witch, this is for you," Nicks said.
At this point, the concert was barely half over, but the band seemed to draw energy from the audience through a series of hits, including "Without You," in which Nicks' endearing yet rambling introduction was longer than the song, "Gold Dust Woman," "Gypsy" and "Stand Back." Every time she twirled, the audience roared.
By the time the band got to "Go Your Own Way," an electric duet between Nicks and Buckingham with undertones of their one-time romantic relationship — the chemistry surely remains — everyone in the audience was up and dancing like they didn't have to go to work today.
House lights were often raised so the band could make eye contact with the adoring crowd and even after two encores, including the infectious "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)," Nicks, Buckingham and drummer Fleetwood didn't want to leave the stage. They lingered, each giving heartfelt thanks to the audience, as Fleetwood, who looks a bit like Santa Claus with a white beard and twinkle in his eye, encouraged everyone to "take care of yourself" and "be kind to one another."
Is the band as good as the first time I saw them in 1977 in Birmingham, Ala., soon after their monster album, Rumours, hit the top of the charts? I'd have to say no, because we were all younger then, and besides, to fans like me, Fleetwood Mac without Christine McVie really isn't Fleetwood Mac.
But the current band still left me with goosebumps as their songs unleashed a flood of fond memories — and they're still having a hell of a fun time doing it.