By Sarah Rodman
December 17, 2018 at 03:36 PM EST
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

The Fleetwood Mac soap opera has been an engrossing yarn over the last 50-plus years. The latest iteration of the group is currently on a world tour with two new members (Neil Finn and Mike Campbell) following the departure of Lindsey Buckingham. With 31 shows completed, including a three-performance run at the Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday, it’s clear that Finn and Campbell have firmly settled into their roles. (It’s not the first time it has taken two people to fill Buckingham’s shoes, including a late ’80s-early ’90s stretch featuring Billy Burnette and Rick Vito.)

Buckingham is not “replaceable” per se, and there were ways in which the singer-songwriter-guitarist was certainly missed (notably: no “Tusk”). But he and the band have moved on, and the addition of Finn, of Crowded House, on vocals and guitar, and Campbell, from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, on lead guitar and one surprising lead vocal, proved the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers still have some gas in the tank.

With that, here are four highlights from the stellar two hour-plus show that found the band roaming all over its catalog — including tracks that pre-dated Buckingham-Nicks — and a couple of choice covers.

New Energy on Old Songs

The band, of course, faithfully played all the hits, kicking off with a churning take on “The Chain.” But there was an extra vibrance evident thanks to Finn and Campbell. The New Zealand native sang tunes like “World Turning,” “Monday Morning” and “Go Your Own Way” with a verve and giddiness that made it clear he was thrilled to be included. (Although certain lyrics did have an extra twist, like “I know there’s nothing to say/Someone has taken my place” in “Second Hand News.”) Campbell, the ultimate economist in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was neither slavish to Buckingham’s leads nor disrespectful, recreating familiar licks as well as taking flights of his own fancy. McVie was in wonderful voice all night, gliding through songs including “Say You Love Me,” “Little Lies,” and “You Make Loving Fun” with her familiar velvety tone. And Nicks twirled and wailed through an epic “Gold Dust Woman” and the lilting “Gypsy,” and got gauzy for “Rhiannon” and “Dreams.” Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie (the band’s namesake members) remained a formidable foundation. Backed by a sharp group of auxiliary musicians — including a guitarist, keyboardist, percussionist and background singers — the group seemed to have hit a sweet spot. That feeling was underscored by Nicks’ playful dancing around Finn and Campbell, and occasionally holding hands with McVie.

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Diving Deep Pays Dividends

The band took the opportunity on this tour to explore some tracks from their earliest days. Nicks admitted that she had no idea that “Black Magic Woman” was a Fleetwood Mac song, assuming the popular cover by Santana was the original. She decided to reclaim the song, written by founding Mac member Peter Green, from a female point of view. The sinuous track also gave Campbell a chance to stretch out. Campbell himself — whose speaking voice sounds uncannily like Petty’s — actually took to the microphone for the full-tilt jam “Oh Well,” also by Green, and occasionally sung by Buckingham in the past. Finn stepped up for the zippy Danny Kirwan jam “Tell Me All the Things You Do.” (Alas, no one tried their hand at Bob Welch’s “Sentimental Lady.”)  McVie confessed that she knew the dip into the past might seem self-indulgent to those only familiar with the classic line-up of Fleetwood Mac, but diehards in the crowd were likely thrilled.

A Nod to Crowded House

While Finn was in the spotlight frequently since he sang most of the Buckingham songs, it was a classy move by his new bandmates to cede the stage for him to perform his band’s most well-known hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Classier still for Fleetwood to introduce it as one of the most beautiful songs he knows. And classiest of all for Nicks to come out and join him mid-song. She was not alone, as many in the crowd crooned along with the wistful 1986 ballad and waved cellphone lights. (We even spied a few actual lighters.) Finn is one of the most undersung pop songwriters ever, and if this tour helps bring new fans to Crowded House (and to his solo work and Split Enz) then all the better.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

A Tribute to Tom Petty 

The first encore was dedicated to the late rocker, Campbell’s bandmate and brother for more than 40 years in both the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch, and Nicks’ occasional duet partner and close friend. As images of Petty through the years — early promo shots, onstage with the Heartbreakers, in the studio with Nicks — drifted by on screen, Nicks performed one of her best vocals of the night, belting out “Free Fallin,'” as Campbell played the familiar chords. It was doubtlessly difficult for both but it was one of the evening’s most poignant moments.

Fleetwood Mac’s world tour continues in January with dates across the U.S. and Canada before heading across the pond.

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