by Roger Catlin
"How Does that feel?" Christine McVie asked.
Fleetwood Mac had just run through a version of Stevie Nick's new song, "Sweet Girl" from the group's No. 1 album "The Dance," on the stage of the Meadows Music Theatre in Hartford.
It was hard to tell from crowd reaction. Nobody clapped. And with the quintet augmented by three musicians and two backup singers, there were more people on stage than in the seats.
The 30-year old band's most popular lineup was going through the final dress rehearsal Tuesday evening for the opening show in its reunion tour, which begins tonight in Hartford.
It made Fleetwood Mac the latest in a line of acts to use the 3-year old amphitheater as a massive, lifesize rehearsal hall.
With no sporting events or circuses to work around, the indoor-outdoor amphitheater with a retractable back wall has been used increasingly for groups looking for a free stage to work out the kinks in gigantic tours.
The Fleetwood Mac equipment started arriving Sunday, just as repairs were being made after Friday's Pantera concert.
Technicians set up the rainbow-like arcs of lighting for the show, installed Mick Fleetwood's gong and adjusted McVie's grand piano at stage right. But it was up to Nicks to thread her own tambourine with a scarf as the rehearsal began about sunset Tuesday.
When the band -- which also includes founders John McVie and Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham -- returns to the fray after 15 years with the opening thumps from "The Chain" tonight, attention in the rock world will be focused on the Hartford show. Media and industry observers are expected in the crowd of up to 20,000 to witness the inaugural show by the reunited Fleetwood Mac lineup that produced one of the best selling albums of all time, 1977's "Rumours."
The 37-city tour is expected to be second only to the Rolling Stones' stadium tour as the most lucrative of the season, with tickets as high as $78.00 quickly selling out. Some general admission lawn seats for tonight's show are still available at $25.00.
Fleetwood Mac's tour was originally expected to begin at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass., this past weekend, but Jim Koplik, the longtime Conneticut promoter who is president fo the Meadows, got on the phone, offering a deal on rehearsal space if the band would consider opening the tour in Hartford instead.
Fleetwood Mac follows such artists as David Bowie, Aerosmith and AC/DC in using the Meadows for a rehearsal hall. Next month, the band Yes will rehearse at the Meadows Oct. 12 to 16 before the band's North American tour begins Oct. 17 at the Meadows.
Though Fleetwood Mac arrived only Tuesday, Parise said, "at the Sheraton [-Hartford Hotel], we've got 40 rooms booked this week."
While local news media will flock to the event tonight, Liz Rozenberg, a Fleetwood Mac spokeswoman, said Hartford will not be overrun with national news media.
"We had some requests, but basically the band's management asked me to give them a chance to do their show before an audience," she said. "They will have not played before a paying crowd in 15 years. So I'm honoring their request and it will be a fairly low-key opening."
The band was still tinkering with the set list during the Tuesday rehearsal, but it began the way the MTV special "The Dance" did.
Nicks described the show as "the same show that you saw on TV, with about a good solid half-hour or 45 minutes [more]. Plus, we learned five extra songs -- "It's Not That Funny" from Lindsey, "Stand Back" for me and "Little Lies" from Christine, which wasn't in the show. Then I think we'll do our acoustic rendition of "Farmer's Daughter" which we did on on of the records, and one other thing."
Nicks said it will be about a 2 1/2 hour set. "So like, bring supplies, a pillow, bring spending money, because it's going to be a long show," she said.
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