In “Don’t Stop,” one of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits and the penultimate song of their Staples Center performance Thursday night, the band advises “don’t you look back.” But with no new album on the horizon, the entirety of their two-and-a-half-hour concert was an exercise in nostalgia.
But nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. While the setlist focused on their multiplatinum albums “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours” and “Tusk,” the romances and recriminations that animated them burned out long ago, and this edition of the venerable British/American band felt less like a re-creation of their mid-to-late-’70s glory days than a Lindsay Buckingham solo concert. With Christine McVie retired from touring (with her down-to-earth bluesy presence sorely missed) and Stevie Nicks’ voice and charisma diminished, Fleetwood Mac is more than ever Buckingham’s band.
The set included an indulgent version of “Go Insane” (the title track from his second solo LP) and included a solo acoustic showcase. A facile guitarist whose solos are not quite as inventive as he thinks they are (tellingly, his best moment was a version of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer’s 1969 guitar workout “Oh, Well”), he stalked the stage with an uncomfortable mix of modesty and preening self-regard, ending almost every song with his head bowed and guitar lofted high, as though he was a victorious warrior paying fealty to his king.
But at least he was present, which was more than you could say for Nicks. The energy level flagged whenever she took the lead. Her performance was little more than a procession of shawls; with the exception of “Gold Dust Woman,” her heavily processed vocals were metallically hollow, and for long periods she wasn’t even on stage.
It was left to the rhythm section of founding members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie to hold things together, and they did an admirable job. Fleetwood attacked the drums with a loose-limbed but powerful enthusiasm, while McVie’s bass provided a modest if muscular bottom. Their unassuming musicianship (save Fleetwood’s less-than-scintillating solo during “World Turning”) provided a timeless tonic to Buckingham and Nicks’ tired and conflicting star turns.