Fleetwood Mac Preached the Power of Change Last Night at American Airlines Center

Christine McVie (pictured in Minneapolis) played Dallas with Fleetwood Mac on Sunday
Christine McVie (pictured in Minneapolis) played Dallas with Fleetwood Mac on Sunday
Tony Nelson

Fleetwood Mac American Airlines Center, Dallas Sunday, December 14, 2014

They say that as you get older, your passions get a little less intense. You gain perspective, and the emotions that make each of life's ups and downs feel like the beginning or the end of the world smooth out. Romance takes a back seat to the enduring qualities of friendship.

In the case of Lindsey Buckingham, that's both true and not true. The rawness of his playing, the almost unhinged quality of how he channels his music, is as strong as ever, has maybe even increased as he's gotten older. It's just that it's changed. But as was demonstrated Sunday night at American Airlines Center, one thing that hasn't changed is that those passions, which are so crucial to Fleetwood Mac's music, wouldn't be the same without Christine McVie's calming influence.

See also: Fleetwood Mac is Coming to Dallas Paul McCartney at American Airlines Center, 10/13/14

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Buckingham, together with Stevie Nicks, has always been the emotional center of Fleetwood Mac -- or at least Fleetwood Mac as we know it. It's a little ironic, given that the band had existed for almost a decade before those two joined it. But without them, the Mac had been a nearly band, a blues band destined for the fringe of obscurity; with them, they became superstars with, at one point, the best-selling record of all time.

It's no coincidence, either. Buckingham and Nicks brought an intensity to the group that was missing without them. His was of a wilder, romantic variety, hers a more brooding, philosophical one. Both, however, brought an unwavering commitment. That intensity is what drove an album like Rumours to be such a success, and it's what almost broke the band apart. But Buckingham, often through sheer force of will, held it all together.

Last night in Dallas, Buckingham seemed hellbent on picking up the show and carrying it on his back. His performances, especially when he took the lead vocal or played a guitar solo, were explosions of energy. He would run around stage or let out scream after scream, a process of constant release. Buckingham was clearly having the time of his life, but it also felt a bit like a matter of life and death -- which ought to be surprising for a 64-year-old who's played these song for over three decades. Surely he's learned to let go.

As he introduced one the few songs from later in the band's career, "Big Love," Buckingham did his best to explain himself. There was a time, he said, when the band members had had to set up emotional boundaries, to close themselves off, in order to coexist. But if a song like this had once been about alienation, as he put it, it has since become a "meditation on the power and importance of change."

It's Buckingham's commitment to the idea of change that seems to keep Fleetwood Mac moving forward, but he knows that he can't run away from his past. These songs are his life's work, after all. So rather than punch a clock and go through the motions, Buckingham sees a redemptive quality in committing himself all over again to playing them, to finding some new meaning and transforming himself in the process. That's why the fire burns so intensely still.

At this late stage in their career, the band has made it through it all together and come out the other side. If Buckingham's restless enthusiasm bore that point out, then Nicks was better able to articulate it and to demonstrate some sense of peace with herself. Ever the strong, independent spirit, she dedicated "Landslide" to a friend of hers in the audience, a single mother, for having overcome her challenges and "won the game."

It was on "Landslide," too, that the passage of time came most sharply into relief. For all its potential sappiness, when Nicks sang the "I'm getting older, too" refrain, it felt particularly poignant. Then, toward the end of the song, the music stopped and Nicks and Buckingham reached across to clasp each other's hands. The crowd let out a cheer. Here, again, was change: Where once there may have been passion and conflict, there was respect and solidarity, a sense of earned friendship.

And yet it needed McVie to truly work. Sure, there was the fact that "the old band had gotten back together," now that she'd returned after almost 20 years away. It couldn't be complete without her. More importantly, though, she was a delight to have around, charming and funny and a grounding influence. Whenever she played one of her songs, the audience stood up from their seats and danced. "Say You Love Me," in fact, was one of the night's highlights, ending as it did with the three vocalists in harmony together.

People come and go, and even the ones who pass through quickly can change us forever. But for the ones who stick around, the meanings of friendship and love can evolve, be redefined. Fleetwood Mac has managed to stick around, and without that change they probably wouldn't be here. It was only appropriate, though, that McVie was the first one to address the audience last night, and the last one to take center stage. The "Songbird" was back. The band had been waiting.

Setlist: The Chain You Make Loving Fun Dreams Second Hand News Rhiannon Everywhere I Know I'm Not Wrong Tusk Sisters of the Moon Say You Love Me Seven Wonders Big Love Landslide Never Going Back Again Over My Head Gypsy Little Lies Gold Dust Woman I'm So Afraid Go Your Own Way

Encore: World Turning Don't Stop Silver Springs

2nd Encore: Songbird


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