Review by Sarah Bowden
There’s a massive turnout for Fleetwood Mac on the last night of their tour. Speaking to their immense legacy, there are generations of fans packed into Forsyth Barr Stadium. I am one of the younger fans (but by no means the youngest) in the crowd, brought up on The Best Of… albums. Around me are people who probably bought Rumours on vinyl, and I don’t know what to expect from the night.
With no opener needed for a band like this, the stadium is suddenly plunged into darkness as the band members make their way onto the stage. The crowd erupts in loud cheers as soon as kiwi icon Neil Finn makes his way to the front of the stage. This cheer is rivalled only by an equally loud cheer that follows soon after as Stevie Nicks joins him. Nicks dances under the soft glow of dim stage lights, Fleetwood Mac launch into The Chain, and we sit back (or rather; stand up and dance) and enjoy two hours of blues rock.
This is the 80th show on the band’s current run, and their last before heading back to the United States. By this stage of the tour they fall easily into their rhythm as they pull out hit after hit. The setlist resembles a greatest hits album and is easy for the crowd to sing along and dance to. There’s a natural back-and-forth between Nicks and Finn as they duet through most of the opening numbers.
Christine McVie briefly leaves her keyboard for the front of the stage, armed with maracas for a rendition of Everywhere. I’m impressed that her vocals sound as clear as they did when this song was released three decades earlier. When Nicks introduces Black Magic Woman, she hurriedly confesses to never realising it was written by Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green. I catch a comment from her about how apt the song is “as it is the year of the woman”, a sentiment slightly lost by the fact that our attention quickly turns from her stunning vocals to Mike Campbell as he shreds on guitar for 90% of the song.
The first half of Fleetwood Mac’s set is fast-paced and energetic. It could be easy for a band like this to call it in and play a half-assed show, but the band genuinely look like they’re having the time of their lives. Finn practically bounces across the stage at times, peering over Mick Fleetwood’s drum kit to grin widely at him. Nicks plays it much cooler, but she has a dance across the stage with Finn during I Got You (Split Endz). Christine McVie laughs with Mike Campbell as he comes to join her during one of his guitar riffs. Unfortunately, John McVie, holding down the bass, is largely hidden amongst the large stage set up.
Along with the six core members, Fleetwood Mac have accompanying keyboard, guitar, percussion, and back-up singers. The 11-piece band easily fill up the stage and along with a large screen behind them which switches between live video feeds and backing video. The screens provide a nice visual interest, which is important when even the stage is several meters away from the front row.
Halfway through World Turning, the band leave the stage in the hands of Fleetwood, who takes us on a wild journey. Expecting a small drum solo, perhaps, we are instead witness to 15 minutes of Fleetwood playing the drums like the happiest child on the planet. Fantastic and slightly perplexing, this drum solo involves frequent calls to the crowd, with shouts of “Don’t be shy! Let it out!” and “Unleash the hounds!”. He transitions into a duet with percussionist Taku Hirano, before grabbing a tuneable drum and coming down to the front of stage wearing a Britney headpiece so he could continue to rally the crowd with vaguely intelligible cries. At some points he even drinks directly from a red solo cup held by a stagehand – Fleetwood doesn’t stop drumming for anything.
Campbell has been slightly overlooked in favour of Finn by the kiwi crowd, but he gets his moment on centre stage for a rendition of Oh Well. He is both playing guitar and providing vocals for this song, and his rougher voice seems to confuse the crowd around me. I, however, think it works perfectly with the heavier tone of the song.
I’m relieved to note that the second half of the set is much more subdued, allowing Fleetwood a well-deserved respite. Of course, the biggest hit for the New Zealand crowd has to be Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House) – a song Fleetwood describes as “the most beautiful, beautiful song” – led of course by Finn and joined in the second verse by Nicks as the crowd becomes speckled with waving phone lights. The band sing their praises for Finn, who looks equally thrilled to be sharing a stage with them. Nicks mentions what a tough act that is to follow – and it is – but she does remarkably well with a rendition of Landslide which truly shows her vocal power and which she dedicates to their tour crew.
Naturally, Finn steals the show with a New Zealand crowd, but Nicks gives him a run for his money in fan favouritism. A grown man behind me yells “yaaaas Stevie!” as she twirls effortlessly around stage, sometimes draped in a shimmery shawl. She is dressed in all black, an ethereal aesthetic she has become known for, at a microphone draped in tassels and beads which wave gently in the breeze, completely living up to her “good witch of rock ‘n’ roll” persona.
By the time we reach the encore, the crowd are all on their feet. A rendition of Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty) is incredibly powerful with images of Petty on the screens behind them. At the end of this song Nicks and Campbell take a moment to stop and look up at the picture above them. The final song, Don’t Stop, is an absolute classic and has everyone dancing. With three final bows from the band, they wave out graciously in thanks to the crowd in front of them, and Fleetwood leaves a final note of “be kind to one another” before leaving the stage.