Fleetwood Mac at the Forum: A band reunited, team spirit intact

Fleetwood Mac played the Forum on Saturday night with Christine McVie, back after a long break

Fleetwood Mac is having a moment.

Decades after its late-1970s commercial peak, the band can still fill arenas around the world with fans eager to relive memories indelibly linked to old hits like “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way.”

Yet Fleetwood Mac’s polished pop-rock has also become a touchstone for younger, hipper acts such as Jenny Lewis and One Direction. In 2011, the television show “Glee” built an episode around the group’s music; the next year it was the subject of a high-profile tribute album.

So it’s not hard to understand Christine McVie’s decision, announced in January, to rejoin the band after retiring in 1998.

She helped create the legend -- shouldn’t she enjoy the glory?

Fleetwood Mac’s tour with McVie, whose presence restores the lineup that made the gazillion-selling “Rumours,” stopped at the Forum for two concerts over the weekend. (It will return for a third on Dec. 6.)

But if the cheers that greeted McVie on Saturday confirmed her reasoning, the singer’s participation also reminded you that, despite its huge success, this is a deeply weird rock group, with three songwriters – McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – whose approaches hardly seem compatible.

Backed by the stalwart rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie (to whom she was married until 1977), Christine McVie was warm and trusting in “You Make Loving Fun” and the buoyant “Everywhere.” The cheerful optimism – and the propulsive groove – of “Don’t Stop” inspired thousands in the audience to sing along.

And though “Little Lies” hinted at the romantic deception that famously runs through Fleetwood Mac’s history, the tune’s sweet melody neutralized any sense of real desperation.

Buckingham offered no such protection as he growled the lyrics of “Big Love,” about the cold comfort of material fortune, over harsh finger-picked guitar. He was similarly intense in the stomping “Tusk” and a long, raw rendition of the bluesy “I’m So Afraid.”

“Second Hand News” was catchier but still anxious, its crisp tempo a promise of escape from the turmoil the song describes.

Then there was Nicks, who set aside her bandmates’ realism in favor of imagery rooted in history and mythology: “Rhiannon,” “Sisters of the Moon,” “Seven Wonders,” the last of which, she told the audience, had made it back into Fleetwood Mac’s set list after the song appeared in a recent episode of “American Horror Story.”

That quasi-mystical vibe is a big part of what’s endeared Nicks in particular to a new generation of musicians, including the sisters of L.A.’s Haim, to whom she dedicated “Landslide” on Saturday. (The Haim sisters weren’t the only admirers who turned up to pay their respects: According to a tweet from the Forum, Harry Styles of One Direction took in Friday’s show.)

Twirling in one of her trademark shawls during “Gypsy,” Nicks drew a wildly enthusiastic response from the crowd. And fans seemed untroubled by the adjustments she made to the melody of “Dreams,” a song whose high notes are now presumably out of her reach.

Yet that adulation hasn’t led, as it does with so many stars, to an unquenchable need for more.

Here Nicks appeared happy -- even relieved, perhaps -- to share the spotlight she grew accustomed to filling while McVie was away, and it was that sense of camaraderie that held Fleetwood Mac’s internal contradictions together.

“Once you come back, you can’t leave again,” Nicks recalled telling McVie in a rambling monologue about the reunion. That she meant it was clear when McVie, singing her ballad “Songbird,” closed the show.

Twitter: @mikaelwood

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