Sunday, October 04, 2009

Great Moments In History 12/12/87

After years of watching music videos and wondering "how is it the concerts I go to are never recorded for music videos?" lightning struck twice for me with two of my favorite bands. the first was the recording of Journey's clip for "Girl Can't Help It" during my attendance of that group's show in Calaveras County in '86. The next year I attended a taping of a full concert for the mighty Fleetwood Mac.

I had no idea this concert was going to be recorded until I got there (despite the tickets stating it was to be filmed), my parents had given me the tickets for a birthday present. So me and my friend Tim took our seats in the good 'ol Cow Palace to see the Mac attack. They were decent seats on an upper seated level directly across from the middle of the stage. Going in I did know of one or two changes, namely that quirky guitarist / vocalist Lindsey Buckingham had quit and was replaced by guitarist / vocalists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. I was really disappointed that Buckingham had quit before the Tango In The Night tour, as I didn't expect them to come back in the first place and was totally stoked by that album.

As the concert started I saw that this was going to be a recorded event and not done quite as seamlessly as Journey's video either. First, there was this huge tangle of monster cables decending from the middle of the ceiling down to the floor blocking some of our view. And the cameras used included a huge one on tracks that pulled along the front of the stage in addition to the cameramen already scrambling on stage. Plus the house lights weren't brought all the way down, instead maintaining a sort of dusk level that highlighted the amount of smoke (you know what kind of smoke) in the arena. In fewer words, the recording process provided a bit of a distraction that made it tougher to get into the actual show.

But I can't say I didn't get what I wanted, not only did I attend a music video but an entire music vid concert that would later get released on video tape (it was combined with another show filmed at the Cow Palace for the finished product). And a concert I attended has been recorded for posterity, how cool is that? Yet what about the concert itself?

The new Fleetwood Mac (and anyone who has followed this band knows there is a new Fleetwood Mac often) was a tight, professional sounding unit. My teenage crush Stevie Nicks was still there in all her flowing scarves and poofy hair glory. She sounded strong though seemed more reserved than I expected. Maybe it was because this version of the group had a different chemistry, without Buckingham there probably was less drama on and off stage. From the opening song "The Chain" the tone was set: they cruised through a perfect sounding take with good vocals and a steady beat. At the same time, all that nervous edginess and frantic tension the song had with Buckingham was missing. A more polished approach took his place, in addition to Burnette and Vito a percussionist plus background vocalists were brought in to fill out the sound.

Still there were highlights to be seen and heard. Hearing Nicks perform "Dreams" live for the first time was pure magic. Newbies Burnette and Vito tried to invoke the original Fleetwood Mac's memory to good effect with an entertaining "Oh Well" and a mellow "I Loved Another Woman". Rick Vito was a spectacular sight of 80's gaudiness in a poker card covered jacket and dollar sign shaped guitar. "Everywhere" sounded better because Stevie Nicks had more presence in the background vocals (I don't know if she was included in the studio version, the impression I've had is no). "Little Lies" came across well and the one time where Stevie did work up some energy was on her solo hit "Stand Back". And drummer Mick Fleetwood did a one of a kind drum solo where he walked around the stage hitting his chest that made sounds like "Help me!".

All in all it was a good concert and fun, even if the ghost of Buckingham lingered as his "Go Your Own Way" remained at the end of the set. The band's brand of polished mellowness continued into the next studio effort Behind The Mask which I've been playing in the car this week. While I certainly like the Mac better with Buckingham, this lineup had its merits. All of the performers seemed comfortable, Vito could tear it up on guitar and Burnette did have a smoother delivery than Buckingham so it wasn't a copycat. This version of Fleetwood Mac is practically forgotten now, at the time they gave a pleasant backdrop to the end of the 80's.

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