Pink did it. So did Bruno Mars.
Last year, they both came back to the Twin Cities for the second time on the same tour and they were noticeably better the second time around.
Fleetwood Mac returned to the Twin Cities on Friday for a second time in four months and they didn’t do it. They weren’t better. But they were noticeably different even though they played the exact same set list at the Xcel Energy Center as they had at Target Center in September.
The Minneapolis show was all about the return of singer/keyboardist Christine McVie after a 16-year retirement. That concert, the first on the On with the Show Tour, was about giddy excitement, a rush of adrenaline and a warm, fuzzy feeling that this fractured family was somehow whole again. It was an evening of the democratic, polite, respectful Fleetwood Mac.
Since then, the Rock Hall of Fame fivesome played 39 more concerts, took a four-week break for the holidays and chose St. Paul as the kick-off for the second leg of the tour. But Friday’s performance had a changed vibe. This wasn’t about the joy of having McVie back on board. Or as Stevie Nicks put it early in the evening: on the last leg, she would say that Fleetwood Mac welcomed McVie back and now it’s simply “she’s back.”
This gig felt like “we’re getting back to work.” Sure, McVie’s contributions were significant, apparent from the opening notes of the first song, “The Chain,” with her high vocal harmonies ringing through clearly. There were several songs, including “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and the closing “Songbird,” that have returned to the repertoire after a long absence to the delight of fans. But McVie wasn’t the spark plug on Friday.
No, that duty fell once again to singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who frankly has carried this band by force of personality (and will) and an obsessive attention to detail, pretty much ever since he and Nicks joined in 1975.
With the sell-out crowd of nearly 16,000 not acting as amped as the Target Center crowd, the band kind of cruised along Friday, sounding good but never great. A good hour into the 2½-hour set, Buckingham took over for a solo version of “Big Love” and the intensity and momentum began building.
Next Nicks joined him for “Landslide,” which she dedicated to her old pal Prince even though he wasn’t in attendance, and the couple who’d turned around Fleetwood Mac in the mid-’70s turned around this show midway. Their romantic tension that has fueled the band propelled the song, which ended with her hitting a high note, then glancing at him for approval, him rolling his eyes playfully and them grasping hands as the lights faded.
Then came arguably the night’s highlight, “Never Going Back Again,” with Buckingham on lead vocals, Nicks on harmonies and their blend sounding like a male-female Everly Brothers. Buckingham was so overjoyed with their performance that he walked over to Nicks afterward in the darkness and gave her a hug that screamed “hot damn.”
For the rest of the night, this band of geezers, ages 65 to 71, was as good as they’re likely to get at this stage of their lives and career (drummer Mick Fleetwood started this band in 1967 in England). “Over My Head” was appealingly countrified. “Gypsy” found Nicks in all her Stevie Nicksness, with a mystical story to introduce it and trippy dancing to elevate it. Buckingham, an underrated guitarist who seizes solo opportunities aggressively, went insane on “So Afraid.” “Go Your Own Way” was the perfect combination of emotion and release.
If Frank Sinatra sings that love is lovelier the second time around, then someone could conclude that Fleetwood Mac made loving more fun the second half of the second time around.