“You tend not to honor or respect or trust nostalgia,” Fleetwood Mac’s fellow 1970s Southern California traveler Jackson Browne said last week on the radio program “World Cafe.” “To indulge yourself in just enjoying the music you really loved 30 or 40 years ago only, to limit yourself to that, is to sort of suffer a kind of death. But this guy I met in Italy said, ‘You’ve got this wrong: The most beneficial thing you can do is to go listen to the music that you were listening to when you were first deciding what kind of life you would have, when you were first passing barriers. It’s like a bond, to be connected to that part of your life in which all things were possible and you were really moving out into your life.’”
A sold-out crowd on Sunday night at the Erwin Center clearly shared that sentiment. Though the audience members ranged from teens to retirees, the majority were fans who first bonded with Fleetwood Mac’s music through “Rumours,” the 1977 classic that eventually sold 40 million copies and remains the band’s touchstone. Indeed, 10 of the 24 songs in Sunday’s set came from the “Rumours” album.
That included all of the first four songs: The bone-rattling, bass-driven “The Chain,” which allowed the anchoring rhythm section of bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood to shine; the radio hit “You Make Loving Fun,” which put the spotlight on keyboardist-singer Christine McVie recent return to the band after a 16-year absence; “Dreams,” the Stevie Nicks signature vocal that topped the charts in June 1977; and “Second Hand News,” the irrepressible “Rumours” opening track that epitomizes the livewire kinetic energy guitarist-singer Lindsey Buckingham brings to the band.
There’s perhaps less nostalgia in “Tusk,” the 1979 follow-up that wasn’t as hit-filled but took more chances, as a three-song passage shortly after the “Rumours”-dominated opening demonstrated. Stage lighting and back-screen images changed dramatically as Buckingham led the launch into “I Know I’m Not Wrong,” followed by the anthemic “Tusk” title track and the dark, mystical “Sisters of the Moon.” It was a brilliant turn toward one of the most fascinating passages of the band’s career.
Buckingham dipped into 1987’s “Tango in the Night” to open a mid-set acoustic section, giving “Big Love” a fresh and illuminating solo treatment on a classical guitar. Nicks then joined him for a transcendent duo rendition of “Landslide,” the song that directly validated Browne’s reflection on how music reconnects you to a pivotal time and place in the greater arc of life.
Indeed, if you first heard the song as a youth in the 1970s, there was no escaping the full-circle emotions that hung in the air as Nicks reached the line, “Even children get older/ And I’m getting older too.” And when she asked, “Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? / Can I handle the seasons of my life?” — those four seasons transposed into four decades, and the understanding that we all managed to handle them in our own way.
“Landslide” was hard to top, but Buckingham did so with “Never Going Back Again,” the show’s surprise highlight and the last number of the acoustic portion. As one of the deeper album cuts on “Rumours,” it carries a little less nostalgic resonance, in part because it’s all about not looking back: “Been down one time/ Been down two times/ Never going back again.”
The last stretch of the main set found the band losing a little bit of steam. Though the McVie-penned cuts “Over My Head” and “Little Lies” were welcome reminders of her return to form, Nicks’ drama-dripping “Gold Dust Woman” and Buckingham’s solo-heavy “I’m So Afraid” felt like indulgences.
The defining rocker “Go Your Own Way” refocused the band as the main set ended, leading into a thoroughly delightful four-song encore that began with “World Turning,” in which Fleetwood took a deserved but thankfully not indulgent drum solo (with Buckingham seated at stage left taking it all in).
Everyone sang along on “Don’t Stop,” the song that became a presidential campaign theme in 1992 and helped plant the seeds for the initial 1997 reunion of the band. “Silver Springs,” the exquisite “lost” track from “Rumours,” followed before stagehands wheeled out a baby grand piano so that McVie could close the show just as she had done at the Erwin Center in 1982, the last time she’d appeared with the band here.
“And the songbirds keep singing, like they know the score,” she sang out on the final chorus of “Songbird,” which floated into the Erwin Center’s rafters as Fleetwood Mac reached another swan song. Nicks and Fleetwood each took a moment to thank the crowd at the very end, but with more tour dates coming up and a new record in the works, something Buckingham had said earlier carried the greatest promise: “At this particular moment, with the return of the beautiful Christine, we begin a poetic, profound and prolific new chapter in the story of this band.”