Fleetwood Mac bring thunder to Manchester

Stevie Nicks leads the show with John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums)
Stevie Nicks leads the show with John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums)

LIGHTS down, mobile phone cameras puncturing the black canvas, Mick Fleetwood’s right foot sets the tone.

Thud, thud, thud, thud - fans know what’s coming - and when a band can open on a monster such as ‘The Chain’, the night promises to show off some of the best songwriting to be heard.

But it would be wrong to expect the latest installment of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘On with the Show’ tour - at the Manchester Arena on Wednesday night - to be a flawless evening of note perfect music.

That’s not why fans, ranging from those who had their first dance to ‘Everywhere’ to the newly grown-up kids from those relationships, are out on a sweltering night.

Shivers as guitar interludes morph into songs which bring hibernating memories alive, knowing every word, being able to say: “I saw Fleetwood Mac,” is why most are here.

The band’s older voices sometimes crack - even with a few songs knocked down a semi-tone or two - but genuine moments of pure joy excuse imperfections.

And the inclusion of Christine McVie, on tour after a 17-year absence from the band, makes the experience more authentic - this really is the Rumours lineup - the record we’ve all bought five times and played to death four.

An energetic opening sees hits ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Dreams’ and ‘Second Hand News’ chalked off before the intoxicating voice of Stevie Nicks shifts the mood with a haunting rendition of ‘Rhiannon’.

For fans with numerous live albums in the car glovebox, Lindsey Buckingham didn’t disappoint with his mesmerising solo performance of ‘Tango in the Night’ opener ‘Big Love’ - a version many fans prefer over the 1987 album offering.

Nicks had another opportunity to induce stomach butterflies in the audience with ‘Landslide’ - lyrics: “‘Cause I’ve built my life around you…. And I’m getting older too,” taking on new significance, as it becomes apparent this band is playing on a radio in the background somewhere in a staggering number of life’s flashpoints.

There were moments of self-indulgence to sit through though - the main culprit being Buckingham whose solo on ‘I’m So Afraid’ was more than a touch too long - and the camaraderie between members in between songs did at times feel forced.

But what can be expected from a band which has come through such thoroughly documented turbulence spanning more than half a lifetime?

And just when eyes were beginning to roll - the band relit the fire as ‘Go Your Own Way’ came to life, paving the way for a mammoth two-part encore, culminating in McVie and Buckingham wrapping-up with ‘Songbird’.

This was made more touching by McVie’s unpolished but heartfelt performance.

For the 98th night of a tour spanning two years and two legs - due to finish in November this year - Fleetwood Mac put on a show fans won’t forget.

The downsides (including a £15 programme with no editorial in it) were soothed with enough moments of magic to make their ticking off on the gig bucket list a satisfying one.

Fleetwood Mac continue their ‘On with the Show’ tour in Leeds, Birmingham and Glasgow next week.