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Sunday, December 29, 2019

Video of the week, Dec. 29

Video of the week: Fleetwood Mac - The Dance

I suppose that after my (provisional) selection of Purple Mountains as the album of the year, I should at least make amends by officially ending the year on a slightly more uplifting note. I have a very small selection of DVDs from which I usually choose something to watch on the last day of the year as "wholesome family entertainment", and most of these are fairly predictable, so here is a slightly less conventional choice - the classic video of Fleetwood Mac's reunion concert from 1997. (Ironically, it does feature at least one of the most depressing performances of all time, but on the whole, it's all about raising your spirits rather than smacking them in the face).

It is an absolute tragedy and travesty that there is not a single complete, full-length, high-quality video release of a classic FM show from their mid-Seventies-to-early-Eighties heyday: the closest we have is a criminally cut and poorly shot video from the Mirage tour in '82, which is still great in its own rights but does not even begin to approach capturing what the Mac were capable of back when they were arguably THE greatest "traditional pop-rock" live outfit on the planet. The Dance, however, despite all the band members having visibly aged and cut down on the insane levels of energy and wildness of their coke-soaked youth, manages to at least somewhat compensate for that - and even with all the limitations, it still has to count as one of the finest concert movies of all time (now just imagine if they'd shoot it in 1979 rather than 1997!).

Changing our chronological perspective and comparing the show with tons of footage that we have from Fleetwood Mac's reunion tours in the 21st century, we can clearly see the difference: on The Dance, we see a somewhat nervous, on-its-guard band which has a clear task - prove to the world that they are so much more than just a nostalgic act - and to do that, they have to slightly amend their arrangements and their posturing to give the old classics a more polished, more thoughtful, more controlled feel. This is particularly obvious in the stage presences of Nicks and Buckingham. Stevie here is notably more calm and rational than usual, with 'Rhiannon' becoming more of a meditative piece than an act of exorcism which it used to be in the old days. As for Lindsey, each note that he plays here sounds meticulously rehearsed and pre-planned - he is taking no unpredictable risks whatsoever - but this is still seriously brilliant meticulousness, as he delivers arguably the best pre-constructed (as opposed to fully improvised) guitar build-ups for 'I'm So Afraid' and 'Go Your Own Way' of his career. And, of course, you get to fully appreciate his inimitable acoustic technique on a new arrangement of 'Big Love' that completely lays to waste the old synth-pop original from Tango In The Night (I know all you synth-pop lovers will probably disagree, but nothing brings out the aching soul in that song like a great acoustic guitar arrangement).

What marred such later Mac tours as the one captured on 2004's Live In Boston was that the success of The Dance helped them realize that they could pass off as crowd-pleasing superstars, and bring back some of the show-off-ey goofiness that they should really have left for good back in the Eighties. What I admire so much about The Dance is precisely its amount of restraint and maturity: the band lets the intrinsic quality of its pop material largely speak for itself, fully concentrating on the music rather than their stage presence and audience teasing. In all honesty, this is probably where Fleetwood Mac should have ended - one perfect last mature goodbye to their greatness (though I will be the first to admit that Say You Will had its share of excellent songwriting). Regardless, the filmed experience is here with us to stay, and we can always pretend for it to have been the swan song, especially if this helps us block out the ridiculous memories about the latest self-parodic Fleetwood Mac scandals (Lindsey "Twice Fired" Buckingham, etc.).

The obvious individual choices to post here would be either 'I'm So Afraid' or 'Go Your Own Way', but I don't want to overdo the gloomy depressing game in the first case and don't want to be way too predictable in the second, so here's 'Gypsy' instead - Stevie is sweet and gorgeous, and Lindsey's pitch has an exquisite golden ring to it here that sounds more clean and pure than on the studio version and on any other live one. Such an angelic experience.


  1. I saw and heard FM in 1980 or early 1981 in Ahoy, Rotterdam. Very impressive and I'm not a fan at all. What impressed me most was a 10+ version of Tusk.

    1. 1979-80 was arguably their greatest tour of all time - armed with Rumours and Tusk, angry and creative as hell but still not completely wasted from drugs and bickerings.
      There is one full video from a 1979 concert, but, unfortunately, the quality is worse than shit. Still, true fans will always enjoy this:

    2. Only now I realize it, but FM in 1980 didn't rely on visual stage effects as pioneered by Pink Floyd (something I'll always hold against this band, no matter how much I admire Animals) nor on show elements like Angus Young's striptease nonsense. Call me conservative, but concerts should be about notes. Again a big compliment for FM.
      The exception is the rock opera of course, but that's what we have movies for. One of my wishes is a rerecording and reshooting of Tommy, now with great actors that actually can sing. Say like West Side Story. And preferably pretty soon, when Pete Townshend is still alive.
      Enough rambling, now I haven't mentioned MiJ yet.