The lights dim, the cymbals beat, and the guitar begins.
Right from the word go, there’s an energy about this — a foot-stamping, driving rhythm from front left of the stage. It defines Monday Morning, the opening song, and it runs all through the show.
Lindsey Buckingham is a rock star. There’s just no doubt about it.
My kids know Fleetwood Mac mainly from Guitar Hero, which features the iconic solo from Go Your Own Way. And suddenly that seems appropriate, for Guitar Hero is exactly what he is.
All through those years, and like any other red-blooded male within the universe, it was always Stevie Nicks who held my ear and caught my eye — her west-coast voice tripping crystal visions of California, from far across a continent and over a wide ocean beyond.
The sound of warm sun and open freeways and emotional heartbreak which I’d happily have stepped in to solve.
That voice still sings the songs I loved so well. Dreams, sublime and echoing new harmonies across the years. Rhiannon, her dark witch safe within. Sara, a tale of loyalty and betrayal. Landslide, simply a perfect reflection on redemption.
Play: Dreams — Fleetwood Mac live in London, 2009
The history of Fleetwood Mac has been told in more rock magazines and media profiles than I could count.
Legend tells how a demo track by Buckingham and Nicks chanced into Fleetwood’s ear, while he was cruising the studios in search of a replacement guitarist after the departure of Peter Green.
History continues as first John and Christine McVie, and then Buckingham and Nicks, endured break-ups through the very sessions when Rumours was cut to vinyl — heartbreak which defined the unique emotional intensity of those songs.
That tension underpins all their output from front of stage. But behind the lights it’s a different story.
In the shadows lurks John McVie, backbone of the band, his consummate bass always vital to the sound. He takes a brief spotlight to open up The Chain and then recedes, anonymous and unassuming beneath his white flat cap.
The contrast with Buckingham’s towering presence just couldn’t be more acute. Standing, strutting, soloing — Lindsey simply steals the show.
I’m sad to say I never really liked those annoying songs from Tusk, and even the cleverly constructed guitar pickers from Rumours would mostly leave me cold. In a band with three song writers — Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie (now retired from the band, but in the London audience tonight), it didn’t seem to matter that much — since a great song would never be far away.
Now, the feel is different. Looking through the tour reviews after the show, the theme is all the same. ‘Lindsey is incredible,’ Buckingham rocks the night.’ And, most accurate of all, ‘Lindsey did god-like things on stage tonight.’
Because it’s true. John McVie might be the most under-rated bass player of our time, but Buckingham is a genius, and somehow I never realised it until tonight.
All those tricky songs are played out of their skins by the man who wrote them, whose perfect riffs gave all the other songs their shape.
Best song of the night is — unquestionably — Buckingham’s Big Love. Buried on the 1987 revival album Tango in the Night, better known for its Nicks and Christine McVie compositions, tonight we hear the song with different ears.
Big Love is transformed into a wild lament on Spanish guitar, picked with a demonic intensity within an atom of existence. Throughout its spell-binding, flawless execution, Wembley lies in silent thrall to the haunting echoes of Buckingham’s decade-long emotional desolation after he and Nicks had parted.
Later on, we hear a dark and fiercely brooding rendition of I’m So Afraid, and a rocking Don’t Stop — perhaps the most famous Fleetwood Mac song of all, following its adoption by the Clinton Presidential campaign in 1992.
But as my second favourite performance tonight I’d pick Gypsy — from the little-played album Mirage, it’s another track I never knew that well.
Play: Gypsy — Fleetwood Mac live in London, 2009
In her introduction, Stevie Nicks tells the story of the song — remembering the days when she and Buckingham toured California as support act to the great rock bands of the 70s, glancing back to her excitement in the moment when Lindsey first invited her to play with him.
From the moment when the Guitar Hero found the Gypsy, genius and charm were fused indelibly together.
They shaped the sound of Fleetwood Mac. And they’re still on stage today.
205. Take back the city – Snow Patrol live at London’s O2 Arena
208. Radio Luxembourg
121. Hot in the city – Billy Idol at Guilfest
92. Live from London – Live8
187. This is the Modern World – From The Jam, Guilfest 2008