CONCERT REVIEW: Minus Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac returns to Atlanta with energetic replacements

Fleetwood Mac at State Farm Arena opening March 3, 2019 with "The Chain."

Fleetwood Mac at State Farm Arena opening March 3, 2019 with "The Chain."

Originally posted Monday, March 4, 2019 by Rodney Ho/ on the AJC Music Scene blog

Given how tumultuous life was for the five core members of Fleetwood Mac when it was a hit-making machine from 1975 to 1987, it was a miracle to see them all together again in 2014.

When they arrived at what was then Philips Arena late that year, the band was rejuvenated, everyone just thrilled to have captured the magic again. After Christine McVie sang "Songbird," the band members spent several minutes on stage talking to the exiting audience about how amazing it was to have McVie back after 16 years.

But those positive vibes didn’t endure.

A year ago, Lindsey Buckingham was unceremoniously booted from the band he helped make famous. Why? He said there were tensions with Stevie Nicks and his desire to focus on his solo project tested the patience of the other band members who wanted to pursue a new tour.

So out with Buckingham and in with two new members to replace him: Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn and former Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers lead guitarist Mike Campbell.

»»PHOTOS: See our complete gallery from the show

At a sold-out State Farm Arena Sunday night, the reconfigured band - which still includes original bassist John McVie (73), original drummer Mick Fleetwood (71) and the two grand dames keyboardist Christine McVie (75) and vocalist Nicks (70) - carted out a 20-song set list over two hours that included two songs that preceded their breakthrough success, 11 classic sing alongs from their two breakthrough albums "Fleetwood Mac" and "Rumors" and four notable hits from the 1980s.

RELATED: My interview with Christine McVie from 2017

Fleetwood Mac Setlist State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA, USA 2019, An Evening with Fleetwood Mac

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There was no mention of the ugliness behind the scenes with Buckingham, who sued the band over his firing last October, then settled in December.

Instead, it was all about positivity and the fresh, brighter energy emanating from Finn and Campbell, who were not treated like guests but full-fledged members of the band.

Neil Finn, lead singer of Crowded House, is now part of Fleetwood Mac on the current tour. He is here performing at State Farm Arena in Atlanta March 3, 2019.

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Finn's vocal stylings are smoother than those of Buckingham's, as he ably covered the male vocals on "Second Hand News" and "Go Your Own Way." He was selected, Fleetwood explained to the audience, in part because of how much the drummer loved Crowded House's 1987 hit "Don't Dream It's Over." (The song peaked at No. 2 in late April at the same time Fleetwood Mac's "Big Love" was climbing the top 40.)

One of the best moments of the night, in fact, was Finn’s stripped down version of the plaintive pop hit, which became a duet near the end when Nicks showed up to sing a verse and join in on the chorus.

Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers fame handled lead guitars for Fleetwood Mac March 3, 2019 at State Farm Arena.

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Campbell was solid on guitar and Fleetwood Mac opened the encore with a cover of the late Petty’s “Free Fallin’ “ with Nicks on vocals. (Nicks had one of the best rock duets of all time with Petty in 1981: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”)

And the two newbies appeared to get along famously. Finn and Campbell riffed back and forth playfully during "Black Magic Woman," an early Fleetwood Mac tune that ultimately became a big hit for Santana.

But for anybody who has seen Buckingham live, his crackling intensity and soulful passion was distinctly missing.

It also meant a few Buckingham-led songs were not on the set list e.g. “Tusk,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Big Love.”

Sadly, Buckingham recently underwent open heart surgery with reports his vocal cords might be damaged.

Fleetwood worked hard to make up for Buckingham’s absence, highlighted by his signature epic 10-minute drum solo during “World Turning.”

And a greater star burden was placed on Nicks, who is about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year as a solo artist 21 years after the band received the honors. Though her upper range isn’t quite there anymore and her twirling not quite as mellifluous, she owned the stage with the assurance of a woman who is not scared of age or the passage of time.

Christine McVie and Nicks ended the concert with a poignant duet of “All Over Again,” which served as a lyrical reminder that the band may see members go their own way at times but lineup changes won’t stop them from thinking about another concert tour:

Well it's it's time to move on to the rain
And finally break the chain
In spite of the heartaches
And troubles in love
I'd do it all over 

Steve Nicks isn't quite as smooth in movement or vocals as she was in decades past but she still makes for a mesmerizing presence on stage.

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Christine McVie returned to the band in 2014 after a 17-year break.

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At age 73, Mick Fleetwood shows the energy of a 23 year old on the drum kit on March 3, 2019 at State Farm Arena.

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