Three songs into the first European date Fleetwood Mac have played since 2009 comes the first of several magical moments as mad-eyed drummer and ringmaster Mick Fleetwood suddenly hits his monogrammed kit harder to underpin the “loneliness of a heartbeat drives you mad” lyric of the US chart-topper ''Dreams'' Stevie Nicks is delivering in her trademark low yearning voice. This perfect marriage of musicians from two different countries united by a common language and purpose is part of what makes the Mac such a compelling concert attraction and must-see act into their fifth decade.
However, the main ingredient remains the soap opera of their intertwined relationships, acknowledged from the off with ''Second Hand News'' from 1977's epochal Rumours, and given a sense of closure with the apposite ''Say Goodbye'' at the end. Not many set lists have a narrative arc or the feel of a group therapy session but no band, not even ABBA, have lived their personal lives in public and used this emotional roller-coaster as inspiration like the Mac. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, wearing a Ramones-like tight jeans and leather jacket combo, admits as much, talking about “the power of change” before an impassionate solo version of ''Big Love''. He has just been hugged by Nicks after a sublime double whammy of ''Sisters Of The Moon'' and ''Sara'', two of four selections from Tusk, the somewhat self-indulgent double set the Mac issued in 1979, since reclaimed by left-field acts like Camper Van Beethoven.
Nicks has made a specialty of these ethereal, floating ballads, mining the same rich seam from ''Rhiannon'' to the Velvet Underground-referencing ''Gypsy'', but they all prove so affecting it would be impossible to pick a favourite or indeed to omit any of them. Their inclusion also illustrates why Nicks has been such a strong influence on Florence Welch and Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes. Her writing remains as distinctive as the gothic, timeless look she fashioned for herself in the mid-seventies and she twirls around the stage – without quite essaying an Irish jig, an impossible feat in the high-heel boots she favours – and drapes herself dramatically in yet another shawl during ''Gold Dust Woman''.
Try as he might, including the dazzling solo which rescues a listing ''I'm So Afraid'', Buckingham knows that Nicks is the star of the show, even as she rambles on while introducing the sweet ''Without You'', the mid-70s demo they recently revisited for a digital download EP. She shoe-horns her own eighties electro hit ''Stand Back'' to add pop heft – and a groovy John McVie bassline – to a lengthy, nuanced, contrasting set which closes with the cross-generational audience on its feet for the evergreen ''Go Your Own Way''. Even Fleetwood's demented drum solo can't spoil the fun. The mighty Mac are back.
Fleetwood Mac play the 02 in London 24, 25 and 27 September, the LG Arena Birmingham 29 September, the Manchester Arena on the 1 October and the Hydro in Glasgow on the 3 October
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