Preview: Fleetwood Mac Without Lindsey Buckingham – A Necessary Part of the Dysfunction Is Missing

With the veteran ‘70s pop/rock band Fleetwood Mac, there were always certain things you could count on when seeing them live in concert. 

Specifically, there was wild-eyed founding member Mick Fleetwood relentlessly pounding away on the drums on a raised platform in the back; co-founder John McVie coolly plucking the bass just in front and below his longstanding partner; and the three principal songwriters and vocalists all displaying their considerable musical talents up front: Christine McVie on the keyboards at stage right, Stevie Nicks at center providing the dramatic flair (and occasionally shaking a tambourine), and Lindsey Buckingham at left strumming or plucking a guitar as only he could.

The front (right) and back covers of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest album Rumours.

Oh and there was always the back story of the once-dysfunctional family that we knew Fleetwood Mac to be – the one we’ve come to know and love for nearly 45 years and which we wouldn’t have any other way.

By now, most of their fans know about the departure of Lindsey Buckingham from the group earlier this year, just as the band announced its 2018-19 North American concert tour – and only a couple of years removed from having completed its earlier tour plus a stint last year with five other legendary bands during the Classic East and Classic West concerts in New York and Los Angeles, respectively.

The new 53-city tour kicks off in Tulsa, Ok on October 3 and concludes in Philly next April.  It will feature the four remaining classic members plus two veteran musicians to fill Buckingham’s shoes: Mike Campbell, former lead guitarist for the late Tom Petty; and Neil Finn, frontman for Crowded House (of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” fame).

The new lineup of Fleetwood Mac, from left to right: Neil Finn, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mike Campbell, Stevie Nicks and John McVie

For nearly all of its popular existence (since 1975), Fleetwood Mac was able to survive multiple (failed) in-band relationships – including the marriage of the two McVies, the relationship of Buckingham and Nicks who joined the band in 1974, and the reported one-time affair between Nicks and Mick Fleetwood.

It was a love-pentagon bound to create issues, yet it was the turmoil of some of those liaisons and their inevitable breakups that fueled some of their best music, including one of the biggest-selling album’s ever: 1977’s Rumours – one that sold gazillions and will provide the band a nice pension should they ever decide to retire.

The soap opera that was Fleetwood Mac was as compelling as it was entertaining.  With each new album after Rumours you wondered just how it would play out.  You were usually left both intrigued and satisfied as long as the classic lineup of five musicians remained intact – not necessarily a given considering their tumultuous pasts together, but still an amazing case study of how the ties that bind can overcome almost any obstacle.

That is why seeing Fleetwood Mac in concert without Lindsey Buckingham on this new tour is such a disappointing prospect, especially at this point in the game.  It’s like the time when Christine McVie wasn’t touring with the band, or when Buckingham left prior to that before each one eventually returned.  Each of the members provides such a unique and essential element to the group, and the synergy between them is so vital, that taking one of them away is like Disney without Pixar – the result just isn’t the same.

But just as there is positive synergy, there is also negative synergy.  And Fleetwood Mac has always been one of the best examples of how both can co-exist within the same entity.

The classic lineup of Fleetwood Mac after their second reunion earlier this decade

Both parties – Fleetwood Mac’s remaining members and Buckingham – have been somewhat measured in characterizing this latest departure, with each essentially boiling it down to irreconcilable differences.  That is likely because both Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey realize how important each was, is and likely always will be to the other’s success.  The door has to stay open for a potential Buckingham return.

In the meantime, new members Campbell and Finn – who’ve stated that they’re looking at this as a long-term assignment in the “new Fleetwood Mac” – have some pretty big shoes to fill.  Consider these Fleetwood Mac songs that were part of recent tours on which Lindsey Buckingham originally provided either lead or co-lead vocals:

“The Chain”

“Second Hand News”

“Tusk”

“Big Love”

“Never Going Back Again”

“Go Your Own Way”

“Don’t Stop”

Even if Buckingham’s voice isn’t what it once was and changes in musical keys became necessary for recent live performances, there’s something to be said for a song’s original singer – and its originator – doing that song live.  Those duties will now go to Neil Finn, who at 60 has received praise from the group’s other members for catching on so well and immediately fitting in with the group. 

Lindsey Buckingham fans shouldn’t fret though.  Not long after his announced departure from the Mac came the news that he’s embarking on his own 34-stop solo tour the same week that his former band begins theirs.  That was ironic news given that the key reason stated for the band’s impasse with their lead guitarist was his wish not to begin the next Fleetwood Mac tour until 2019.  Buckingham’s begins October 7 in Portland, OR.

And so continues the dysfunction. 

No doubt Lindsey will be performing some of those Fleetwood Mac songs as well as his solo hits like “Trouble,” “Go Insane” and maybe even that famous tune from National Lampoon’s Vacation movie, the song “Holiday Road.”

That has to be some consolation to Buckingham loyalists (besides you’d never hear “Holiday Road” at a Fleetwood Mac concert).

On the surface, the core members of Fleetwood Mac don’t seem to mind this transition.

Said leader Mick Fleetwood about the new lineup earlier this year, “We jammed with Mike and Neil and the chemistry really worked and let the band realize that this is the right combination to go forward with in Fleetwood Mac style.

“We know we have something new, yet it’s got the unmistakable Mac sound.”

Perhaps that’s so. But with Fleetwood Mac, it’s always been about more than just a sound.  Their history with the five classic members created a back story that was just as compelling as the music.  It gave those songs the proper emotional context with which they were created, by the dysfunctional family members who created them.

And just as a Lindsey Buckingham concert isn’t the same as seeing Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac won’t be the same without Lindsey Buckingham.

DJRob

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