Fleetwood Mac relies on familiar hits

— Remember rock music in the '70s? Lots of cocaine, drum solos, theatricality and lovers' quarrels? We're talking, of course, about Fleetwood Mac. And plenty of people remembered it all on Wednesday night, as a nearly sold-out crowd at Kemper Arena shelled out big dollars for yet another greatest hits live package from aging rock stars.

As on their 1997 reunion concert album "The Dance," the night kicked off with "The Chain," one of many songs from 1977's "Rumors" played during the show. Introduced by Mick Fleetwood's resounding bass drum, it led into a mid-tempo guitar riff and dual vocals from Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Midway though, the tune changed direction, slowing momentarily and then building to an explosive climax courtesy of Fleetwood's thundering rhythms and John McVie's mournful bass line.

Glance at the back of Fleetwood Mac's "Greatest Hits" album or "Rumors" and you'll get a good idea of how the evening's set went down -- almost all hits, all the time. "Dreams," "Gypsy," "Tusk," "Gold Dust Woman," "Rhiannon" and the recent "Silver Springs" were all there, plus a few tracks from the group's new album, "Say You Will."

But the big winner was "Landslide," whereupon Nicks and Buckingham alone shared the stage. The mostly middle-aged crowd ate it up as Nicks sang about changing and getting older. Some of the children of those attending were probably at home listening to the sub-par cover by The Dixie Chicks.

For this first tour of the new millennium, founding Mac pianist/vocalist Christine McVie chose to sit things out, but her absence wasn't even mentioned. While none of McVie's numerous Mac hits made it onto the set list, the act tried to compensate for her departure by employing a substitute on keys, two backup singers, and additional guitarists and drummers.

Fleetwood, Nicks and Buckingham all got a chance to show off individually and none missed an opportunity.

The gangly Fleetwood took his time on a more than 10-minute drum solo, but it was Buckingham who seemed to go to the greatest length to prove his value. He made sure to show off his guitar prowess to the crowd, especially on numbers like "Big Love." But whether he was banging away on his instrument or doing a ridiculous pseudo-tribal dance with Nicks at the end of "Tusk," it became tiresome after a while.

Nicks' voice is still mystical and enchanting, though the melodies to some songs were slightly altered since she can't quite hit those upper-register notes any more. But her fashion sense (or lack thereof?) prevailed in the crowd as many female Stevie wannabes prowled the aisles clad in long scarves and other funky garb. (Thankfully, Buckingham's 1970s "White Man's Afro" hasn't yet become a popular hairstyle outside of hipster circles).

But above the clothes, people remembered the songs. It proved once again the aging rock star credo that if you give the people what they want, they'll pay any price to get it.

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