Article in Calendar section of Los Angeles Times Saturday, May 24, 1997
Will Mac Tour Soar Like Eagles?
Burbank - Fleetwood Mac's reunion concert Thursday night on a Warner Bros. sound stage in Burbank got off to a wobbly start.
Only one song into the two-hour set, which was taped for MTV, singer Stevie Nicks twice botched the opening line to "Dreams," one of the band's signature songs. Each time, The group had to stop and restart the song. "I'm so sorry," said Nicks, who was greeted with a roar from the crowd of 800 when she finally got it right on the third try. "I guess I'm really nervous." Her anxiety was easily understandable.
The show, a warmup for a fall arena tour that is expected to reach Southern California in early October, was the first full-length concert in 15 years by Fleetwood Mac's most successful lineup: Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and co-founders Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.
The questions facing the reunion: Is the quintet still strong musically after all these years and how big an audience is waiting to see it again?
The irony of the reunion is that the band will again be pitted against its late-70's chart rival, the Eagles. Two decades ago, the groups were mainstream pop-rock blockbusters, both based in Southern California and writing about relationships with style and grace. Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album, "Rumours," and the Eagles' 1976 collection, "Hotel California," remain two of the biggest selling packages of all time--with an estimated sales of 17 million and 14 million copies, respectively.
Now, Fleetwood Mac's reunion will be measured by many in the industry against the commercial standards of the Eagles' hugely lucrative 1994-96 reunion tour. The worldwide trek grossed some $210 millino and was witnessed by more than 3.5 million people.
Add to that the estimated $200 million to $250 million that the Eagles grossed in album and merchandise sales and it's easy to see why Fleetwood Mac, which splintered in 1987 for various personal and professional reasons, would be tempted to regroup.
Industry observers, however, are skeptical that the reuinited Mac can reach the Eagles' level because, unlike its rival, the band has remained active over the years despite the loss of key memebers, perhaps tarnishing its image. Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert trade publication Pollstar, says it would be wise for the group to keep ticket prices lower than the Eagles, who charged more than $100 for some seats in selected cities.
Still, promoters are looking forward to teh U.S. tour and retailers are eager to hear the band's upcoming live album, which will be culled from the MTV telecast and is due in August on Reprise Records.
"I understand that the Eagles were basically gone for 14 years and that Fleetwood Mac has continued to exist in some form," said Gary Arnold, vice president of marketing for the 272-store Best Buy chain, "but if you are a Fleetwood Mac gan, this is the lineup you want to see."
Fleetwood Mac reintroduced itself the same way the Eagles did after their long break--with MTV special taped on the same sound stage. (The Eagles, too, released a live album from their MTV telecast.)
"The Eagles' success didn't inspire me, but it may have inspired Mick," said Buckingham, adding that the seeds for a reunion were planted last year when he invited Fleetwood to play drums on a solo album the singer-guitarist was recording. "And I would be naive to say it didn't inspire the record company..Obviously, the lightbulb went off."
Buckingham and his bandmates, however, all insist that the reunion is not only about money.
Speaking of the Eagles' leaders, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Buckingham said: "I don't know either of those guys very well, but my understanding is that they sort of begrudgingly got back together and that they don't really get along even now. But I'm telling you, with this fivesome, we are actually getting along better than we ever have. It seems to transcend the formula a little bit.
The band, especially an enthusiastic Buckingham, certainly seemed to be enjoying itself Thursday before an appreciative audience as it trotted out 22 songs--from such hits as "You Make Loving Fun" and President Clinton's 1992 inaugural theme, "Don't Stop," to four new songs.
During a spirited encore of "Tusk" and "Don't Stop," the group was joined on stage by the USC Marching Band , 77 members strong, before the show ended with Christine McVie alone at the piano for "Songbird."
"This was a very special night for us," a beaming Fleetwood told the crowd as the band took a bow. "It's been a loooong time."
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