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I saw Fleetwood Mac with my ex-boyfriend’s secret girlfriend

Fleetwood Mac at the Xcel Energy Center.

Fleetwood Mac at the Xcel Energy Center. Steven Cohen

I got a Facebook notification in July from a stranger named Katie.

“This message is a long time coming,” she began. “I think you deserve to know that [REDACTED] was not honest to me about how you met or your relationship. If you'd like to talk about this more in person or wherever, no hard feelings and beers are on me.”

The text thread that followed went on for hours, but here’s the upshot: My then-partner and Katie had been together a few months longer than my then-partner and I had. Both of us had been in the dark about the other, and we uncovered an extended, elaborate, and honestly impressive web of lies meant to obscure the other’s relationship. It sure was… something.

Katie, it turned out, was also cool as hell, and we had a lot in common: just a couple of femmes who were into bikes and Hamm’s and ’80s punk. We both had two cats, we both loved monster trucks and @dasharez0ne—and Stevie Nicks. And eventually, she said those 19 little words every recently cucked gal who just learned her “relationship” is actually a half-year con longs to hear: “So the real question now is: Are we going to Fleetwood Mac together since I'm repossessing [REDACTED’S] birthday ticket?”

Obviously.

Show me a more metaphorically on-the-nose group than the one that penned Rumours to soundtrack a friendship forged in such a strange emotional chaos. Telling your girlfriend you’re spending the day at Mom’s when actually you’re at an amusement park with your other girlfriend? How very Christine McVie telling John that “You Make Loving Fun” was about her dog. The primal, wounded anguish of “Go Your Own Way”? That’s finding out about the aforementioned lie(s), and asking a one-time partner to kindly fuck off forever outside of your favorite bar. “Don’t Stop” is the willful optimism you’ll perform in the weeks that follow.

Months after meeting, Katie and I heard all those tracks and then some last night at the Xcel Energy Center, during a marathon Fleetwood Mac set.

There’s been lots of speculation following Lindsey Buckingham’s abrupt firing earlier this year—I don’t have to tell you Fleetwood drama in no way stopped post-Rumours—about what his absence would mean. Would the Lindsey-less lineup trot out his tracks? Would a more-is-better approach—subbing in Crowded House frontman Neil Finn and former Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell—help fill Buck’s black blazer? Will it still be worth it?

The answer is yes, to everything.

These songs, spread over two and a half hours, sound as good as I can imagine them sounding. The first notes of opener “The Chain” have a direct line to the heart even now. The harmonies on every “Rhiannon” chorus will make you shudder, then decide to start a coven. “Black Magic Woman”—best known as a Santana song, yes, but written by Mac’s Peter Green—sung by Stevie and retold through a female lens instead of a man’s, is owned entirely, of course, making you wish it had been that way to start.

And Nicks must have black magic in her pocket—how else could her voice sound so incredible? Somehow better with time, as warm and tough and soft as worn leather, and as comfortable to slide back over yourself no matter the year?

Some of the show has aged less gracefully, sure. The fractal ’90s video effects playing behind the band, for instance. And Mick Fleetwood’s extended, obligatory solo during “World Turning,” with the camera zooming in on his passionate-but-terrifying eyeballs as his body repeats outward toward infinity, recalls a Tim and Eric segment. But people were… into it? I… think?

Does it stack up to the Mac’s glory days? I mean, hard for me—a 27-year-old catching them for the first time in 2018—to say. (Hey, if you clicked a story with the headline "I saw Fleetwood Mac with my ex-boyfriend’s secret girlfriend" expecting a note-by-note unpacking of Finn’s harmonizing vs. Buckingham’s, I really can’t help you.)

I can tell you they’re sure as hell going to make you feel something.

Fleetwood Mac’s always been more about the women for me anyway. “The Christine McVie songs are some of my favorites,” Katie says during “Say You Love Me,” because of course they are. And the lionization of McVie and Nicks in the classic rock canon, in an era when so few women got any recognition, says to me that’s true for a lot of people.

I recognize Buckingham wrote an awful lot of classic songs, but, respectfully, those songs have already been written. What’s left to do now is get out on the road and play them. For someone like me who’s clearly quite adept at taking other people’s anguish and making it about their own life, the thesis of the show couldn’t have been more clear: Sometimes you just have to keep moving.

Which is exactly what Nicks told Rolling Stone earlier this year, after announcing the split with Buckingham. They were supposed to rehearse for this six-month behemoth of a tour in June, and he wanted to wait until November 2019. “That’s a long time,” she said. “I just did 70 shows [on a solo tour]. As soon as I finish one thing, I dive back into another. Why would we stop? We don’t want to stop playing music. We don’t have anything else to do. This is what we do.”

I had to marvel at these musicians, who have weathered so much together throughout their 40-plus year career. Aw, was a bartender you met last year dishonest with you about his feelings? I could just see Stevie shrugging beneath her shawl, then playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest tambourine.

Every tortured lyric said: “Buck(ingham) up, buttercup—it can get a whole lot weirder and worse. We took our emotional trauma and aired it publicly, turning possibly the worst romantic implosion a group of people has traversed collectively into some of the best records of all time. What are you going to do with yours?”

Turn it into a “review” of a Fleetwood Mac show at city pages dot com for starters, I guess.

Click here to see a photo slideshow of Fleetwood Mac rockin', twirlin', and groovin' in St. Paul

Critics' bias: Spent a chunk of summer 2018 in a confused emotional haze withTusk on repeat. Once got drunk on New Year’s Eve and tweeted this.

The crowd: A good amount of beautiful people in black lace and gingham and hats. Also plenty of gray-haired guys in jackets promoting various Midwestern construction companies. This is a mix I’d like to see more of.

Random notebook dump: We’re entering peak spooky season, and I have to say, Stevie… might get more powerful the closer it is to All Hallow’s Eve? Possible unfair advantage, idk.

Setlist

The Chain
Little Lies
Dreams
Second Hand News
Say You Love Me
Black Magic Woman
Everywhere
I Got You (Split Enz cover)
Rhiannon
Tell Me All the Things You Do
World Turning
Gypsy
Oh Well
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House cover)
Landslide
Isn’t It Midnight
Monday Morning
You Make Loving Fun
Gold Dust Woman
Go Your Own Way

Encore
Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)
Don't Stop
All Over Again