Middle of february, the cold has abated for a few hours and my husband and partner of 15 years and I are finishing dinner and going to see Fleetwood Mac.The food is delicious – we are so happy we give the waitress a $20.00 tip for a 50.00 bill; she had pink hair and a nice smile and we agreed that something cool should happen to her that night. She had been so kind and happy for us when she found out we were going to Fleetwood mac.
But I knew she was too young to really understand why going to this concert is so cool for so many of us. Bands like Fleetwood Mac help you remember yourself.
I do. I wasn’t very old – only about 12, but I was beginning the greatest adventure of my life aboard a plane heading towards west Africa. Ironically and strangely coincidentally, I had been reading the book Roots, by Alex Haley on my way. I had picked it up randomly at the airport, deeply concerned about getting bored on the 12 hour flight buying the fattest book I could find. It was 1979 and things were very different. You could smoke on planes, there were definitely no tv’s or videos and flight attendants had to actually do the safety thing without help of a video or recorded audio.
I began reading Roots when our plane took off from New York city, and ended it exactly 30 minutes before we touched down in Dakar, having switched planes in Conakry to board the small Twin Otter plane crammed with people from every nation – and a chicken or two. Roots actually begins not very far from where we were landed and so when I looked out of my window to the startlingly red earth below, it felt like I was walking into history.
The doors opened and my fellow weary passengers got up. Some african some European american and Canadian. It was a mix of people so different I remember remarking that we all smelled very differently. Not in a bad way, just in a different way. For example, I came to learn that to me, West African people often smell like oranges because of their diet of so many fruits.
The plane was very small – Air Guinea they called it. The metal on the sides had been rattling the entire time and I was incredibly grateful that we had landed alive. The ceiling was so low that the woman behind me with the beautifully wrapped headscarf could barely stand up properly without tipping her head to one side or down.
When the doors of the plane opened and that first rush of heat had been absorbed I heard a guitar just close enough so I could hear it. We began to step down the plane and to my right was a long funny looking “building”. One side was closed and seemed to contain some version of rooms, but most of the “airport” was just four sticks and a roof. And there, under the entrance way, sitting on the stairs was a group of young people, my age or a little older – like a miraculous greeting committee. In the center of them sat who I would come to know as Mitch Djebullion, and beside him his brother Bull. Nathalie from Connecticut also there. She would become my best friend and we would play Jackson Browne’s The Load Out four million times before we would have to part. And Emmanuel from Ethiopia – the blackest human being I had ever seen, shot me a bright flash of teeth. He would be my partner in crime for all the amazing adventures we would have.
The song they were all playing and singing was ‘Second Hands News” by Fleetwood Mac. I realize now how “new” the album was, and for them to even know the song was miraculous because music often only hit Africa a half a year after the rest of the world had already memorized the lyrics.
So, last night, when Fleetwood Mac played that song, live, in front of me – ok far away – but we were in the same room – I was transported to that place in a split second. I could feel the hot earth and the absolute certainty that this was where I belonged and those were my people. We met like old friends and shared many wonderful adventures in the months I stayed in Africa.
The music of JOY! That’s what Fleetwood Mac brought to us.
The Gazette writer had it right when she said that they brought a contemporary edge to the music. It wasnt;t all just about memories – it was fresh too. I guess as a singer I watch the band a little differently. i watch how they talk to each other, how rehearsed or spontaneous they sound, how comfortable they are with their instruments. Who is leading. That kind of stuff. I find it interesting. But last night, when Stevie Nicks began singing, I actually had a moment of concern, because she wasnt hitting the signature upper ranger in songs like The Chain. She was really keeping it quiet, and I thought
“oh NO! Stevie nicks has gotten old and can’t hit the highs anymore and the same thing is going to happen to me!”
The fear of every middle-aged singer I suppose, is that one day we wont be able to do the thing we love so much. But, I become inspired by singers like Joni Mitchell and Stevie nicks, who just seem to develop richer and more beautiful interpretations of their songs as they age.
The Stevie took me to school. I watched as she gradually increased her energy input into the songs. She slowly brought herself to stronger notes. Even John said it
And that was it. I learned that holding back a little can make for an amazing presence by the end she had sort of fully let out her energy and the whole thing exploded when she did “Gold dust Woman”. It was extraordinary and subtle showmanship and I am so grateful for having seen it.
On the other side of the serious aspects of the show, was the fun of sitting up in the nosebleeds for the first time in our lives. Just getting to our seats was a whole adventure…
The parking garage has a huge line-up – it’s 25.00 to park! holy shit. but our kids bought us the tickets so that’s our cost for this show and getting into a warm car at the end – totally worth it.
We enter the garage and are about to find out how different concerts are in 2015 compared to 1977 when I hopped into a VW bug with a girl named Judy and 6 of her closest friends, all bedecked in hippie attire to go the Forum in Montreal to see YES. In those years, they didn’t check your trunk for bombs or frisk you with magical wands to see if you are packing.
In those years you could smoke anything during the concert. I can;t imagine now how we didnt’t all light ourselves on fire. people would get insanely wasted. I didn’t even have to smoke during the YES concert, I was so vicariously high I was practically hallucinating by the intermission.
The place is PACKED. Everyone is outside smoking weed, trying to ignore the tee-shirt vendors. We are being relagated like cattle and I am suddenly aware of being surrounded by SO many people. As someone who live sona a farm, my subjection to humans is limited to gigs. This was HUGE. Then i felt it – all these people were happy. it was like being in a soup of happy people. I heard the laughing and everyone sharing memoreis. I noticed that at least half the audience is made up of young people. The couple sirtting meside me are spanish and a huge group of Inu people pass me on the stairs. The appeal of this band seems to cross all boundaires.
They took it back to basics; no fancy light show, a couple of overhead screens for imaging and background but that was it. They were able to rely on their music, unlike the Katy Perry’s of this day who couldn’t sing without a technical pitch adjuster if their lives depended on it. You know, I have to say as a traditional singer, I felt a small victory for the “old school girls” like Stevie and Joni and me and all the others who try to uphold the sanctity of the music.