The first words spoken by Stevie Nicks to the capacity crowd at McNichols Arena on October 29 for the Fleetwood Mac reunion tour were, "Welcome to our party." But for just an instant, I thought she said, "Welcome to our payday."
It was an easy mistake to make, given how much mammon had to do with bringing together Nicks and bandmates Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood for a made-for-MTV album (The Dance, a disposable piece of product) and their first tour in a decade. But while watching the slick, professional display staged by the five, I got the sense that virulent greed of the Eagles variety was not as important a factor in the project as was the simple, rather poignant hunger for attention. Which none of the musicians have been receiving of late.
Don't forget, the Buckingham-Nicks version of Fleetwood Mac was a behemoth of Seventies music--one that consistently packed concert halls and moved an astounding number of LPs (1977's Rumors is still among the top-selling albums of all time). But as time wore on, Buckingham, the only true musical wizard in the combo, realized that it was more creatively fulfilling to make music on his own than to prop up the often middling compositions of Nicks and Christine McVie. He left the fold after 1987's Tango in the Night, and when he spoke to Westword in the wake of Out of the Cradle, a criminally overlooked 1992 solo offering ("Growing Up in Public," April 7, 1993), he was adamant about maintaining his independence. He had played alongside his former cohorts at the inauguration of Bill Clinton, who had used the Mac's "Don't Stop" as a campaign theme song, but noted, "I didn't feel overly connected to any of it, really. It was short and sweet. There were a lot of questions about whether this suggested a long-term reunion, and those were quickly put to rest by me. And that was it."
In a sense, then, Buckingham's decision to kiss and make up with Nicks and company represents a loss of resolve. But his actions are quite understandable, especially if you take his personality into account. Although he is interested in pushing pop into fresh, often strange territory, he's also a commercial animal who thrives on mass recognition. The mediocre chart run of Cradle was extremely disappointing to him ("I'd be lying to you if I said I would not have liked to have heard this album on the radio," he told me); hence, it's reasonable to assume that the five years of relative obscurity that followed must have been sheer torture. It makes perfect sense, then, that he would say yes to trading a measure of his autonomy for the enormous outpouring of love and lucre that the resurrection of Fleetwood Mac has unleashed. If you had been in the same position, you probably would have done the same thing.
Nevertheless, one couldn't help but feel a bit sad watching Buckingham subordinate himself to his less talented colleagues during the group's turn at McNichols. Not that the other players failed to treat him with total respect. On the contrary, all of them realize that his producing, arranging and instrumental skills were at least partially responsible for them becoming stars in the first place--and they know how bad life in the band had been without him. (Christine McVie and Nicks briefly left the outfit in 1990 in the face of withering reviews and a severe drop in drawing power that also doomed their attempts to forge post-Mac careers. Moreover, versions of the band featuring journeymen like Billy Burnette, Rick Vito, Bekka Bramlett and Dave Mason became industry laughingstocks.) So they deferred to him frequently, allowing him to feature his more challenging work on numerous occasions. But the gentlemanly Buckingham returned the favor just as often, withdrawing into the role of invisible sideman when it came time for Christine or Stevie to take the lead. The arrangements, meanwhile, were generally as safe as safe could be, with two supplementary guitarists, two back-up vocalists and an extra percussionist cushioning the sound and slowing the tempos to the speed of nostalgia. Whenever Buckingham slid into the shadows, somnambulance stepped in front of the footlights.
Christine McVie has a voice that's generally described as "smoky," but on this night, it seemed more like sickly sweet incense left burning too long in an unventilated room; her rendition of "Everywhere," in particular, left me struggling to remain conscious. As for Nicks, she is not as Rubenesque as she has been in recent years, when the only press she got was in the context of tabloid headlines like "Witchy Rocker Eats Canned Ham Like Corn on the Cob." But given her advancing age--which she underlined for the sake of cheap applause with her delivery of the line "I'm getting older, too" in "Landslide"--her continuing fondness for flowing clothing and wraps that resemble brocaded tablecloths seemed even riskier than it had in years past. As she executed her trademark twirls, she suggested a delusional, atrophying starlet from Day of the Locusts. The effect was accentuated by her voice, which has grown deeper and gruffer since her glory days. The change was painfully obvious during "Stand Back," a lame solo ditty during which she sounded like Bea Arthur in an especially frenzied episode of The Golden Girls.
In the main, though, Nicks and Ms. McVie were tolerable presences, and the rhythm section of Fleetwood and John McVie (who bore a striking resemblance to Tiger Woods's caddy) was efficient, if not terribly stimulating. If all you wanted from the show was an opportunity to hear old tunes such as "You Make Loving Fun," "Go Your Own Way" and "Gypsy" in a live setting one more time, you probably walked away satisfied. But the only genuinely artistic moments were produced by Buckingham, with little or no help from anyone else. The guitar gymnastics that he exhibited in "I'm So Afraid" were passionate; his recasting of "Big Love" as a plucky flamenco and "Go Insane" as a baroque sonic melodrama were inspired; and his reading of a new composition, "My Little Demon," strongly implied that a part of him is uncomfortable being back in Big Mac. But the 18,000 strong who watched him wrestling with insecurities old and new provided some compensation. To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe, you can't go home again, but you can go to the bank.
Last week, nobody in particular presents, the promotions firm run by Doug Kauffman, announced that it would no longer be using Rocky Mountain Teleseat to disseminate its tickets. This sudden decision comes as something of a surprise given Kauffman's frequent ballyhooing of Teleseat, which he said created savings for him and the average Joe in comparison with Ticketmaster, the service that dominates the live-events business. For example, in the January 18, 1995, edition of this column, Kauffman said in relation to his newly inked agreement with Teleseat, "I just felt this was a better alternative. Since it offered a savings to the concertgoer with no apparent downside, I thought, 'Why not give it a shot?'"
Just short of two years later, the downside has arrived. "Teleseat filed for bankruptcy reorga-nization under Chapter 11," Kauffman notes. The company, which also handles tickets for the Colorado Rockies, remains open at present, but Kauffman decided to cut his losses. "I got burned for some money," he concedes, "but it's not an amount that would place my business or my shows or the public's investment in jeopardy. I'm already moving forward on my shows, and they'll all be made good by me, the promoter." (At press time, representatives from Rocky Mountain Teleseat had not replied to numerous requests for a response to Kauffman's comments.)
Rather than immediately jumping back into bed with Ticketmaster, Kauffman will be handling the tickets for nobody in particular presents concerts through the end of 1997; they can be purchased at the Ogden Theatre (830-2525) and a small network of retail outlets, including Boulder's Albums on the Hill. He declines to speculate about his options for 1998 and beyond, saying only that "this is the time of year when things slow down a little bit, which is lucky for us. In the meantime, we appreciate everyone's understanding and hope that this won't be that much of an inconvenience."
Received in the mail a copy of Spin Underground U.S.A., a tome published by Vintage Books that is subtitled The Best of Rock Culture Coast to Coast. But Denverites hoping to see what the arbiters of taste regard as Colorado's finest contributions to the fabric of American rock are out of luck: Our town is not represented. (The spots Spin deemed cool enough to mention are Atlanta/Athens, Austin, Boston, Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New Orleans, New York, Portland, Providence, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.) Evidently, folks around here need to work at becoming hipper. Could refusing to read any more books put out by Spin be a step in the right direction?
Local provocateur Tom Headbanger is certainly not relying on national rock mags to determine what acts to bring to town. His latest spectacular, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, November 12, at the Aztlan Theatre, includes presentations by Death in June (a favorite of European gloom-and-doomers for many moons), Strength Through Joy, Scorpion Wind and Non, a Mute Records act that's the creation of the willfully controversial Boyd Rice. Folks prone to dark moods are encouraged to attend. Headbanger is also the man behind "Swingathon I," a sort of swing rave starring the Savoy Orchestra and the Dalhart Imperials (see Hit Pick, page 90). The location is the Casino Cabaret, and the hours are 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. If you stay for all eight hours, remember: Emergency-room facilities are nearby.
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Funny Girl fans will want to check out Michelle Monet, a Barbra Streisand impersonator once profiled by this very publication ("A Streisand Spotting," June 16, 1993). Monet appears on Saturday, November 8, at the Shwayder Theatre, in the Robert E. Loup Jewish Community Center in Glendale, and proceeds are earmarked to benefit the Violence Prevention Institute and the Women's Crisis Center of Colorado. More information can be had at 751-4859.
People who need people are the luckiest people in the world--whatever the hell that means. On Thursday, November 6, the Delta 72 count at the 15th Street Tavern, with the Emirs and Go Machine; Steve Crenshaw strokes his ax at Herman's Hideaway; and Mail Order Children can be found at CU-Boulder's Club 156, with Sturgeon General, Insatiable and Fletch. On Friday, November 7, Jon Chandler joins John Macy, Celeste Krenz and others for some Western-style crooning at Cameron Church; God Street Wine is served at the Fox Theatre, with Citizen Utility; Sketch pencils in an appearance at the Market Street Lounge; Space Team Electra lands at Seven South, with Register; Stanley Milton's Mean Streak gets peeved at Ziggie's; Shsc helps bring the umlaut back to rock and roll at Cricket on the Hill, with Skull Flux; and Havilah performs at the Abstract Caffe, 8250 West 80th Avenue in Arvada. On Saturday, November 8, intriguing singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky strums at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, with Green Linnet/Redbird Recordings signee Brooks Williams; Buzz Bomber and the M-80s create chaos at Seven South; the Sean Owens Band strolls into Ziggie's; and Dressy Bessy models at the Lion's Lair, with Pilary Victrola. On Sunday, November 9, the Lords of Acid drop at the Ogden, with Sweet 75; Greg Piccolo brings everything but his flute to the Little Bear; and Sweet Honey in the Rock and Kelly Joe Phelps travel to an E-Town taping at the Boulder Theater. On Monday, November 10, 311 goes to McNichols Arena, with Sugar Ray. On Tuesday, November 11, Five Iron Frenzy introduces the world to its second CD, Our Newest Album Ever, at the Aztlan Theatre; the Dandy Warhols get soupy at the Ogden; Zap Mama veteran Sally Nyolo hits the Boulder Theater; Flipper Dave splashes down at Herman's; Beth Orton returns to the Bluebird Theater; and the Early Music Ensemble, made up of students at CU-Boulder's College of Music, plays for free at Grusin Music Hall (call 492-8008 for details). And on Wednesday, November 12, Majek Fashek skanks at the Boulder Theater, and Dave Delacroix shows off 21st Century, his new CD, during a late-afternoon gig at the Snake Pit. He knows what the future will hold.