What kind of additions Neil Finn and Mike Campbell will make to Fleetwood Mac lineup is a question that will have to wait till the newly reconfigured lineup goes on tour in October. But at Largo Thursday night (May 3), some 280 fans got a partial glimpse as a pop-up show by father-and-son partners Neil and Liam Finn found Campbell as a surprise guest on two songs, one of them a deeper-than-deep Mac track.
“Playing at Largo is really about having wonderful surprises occur,” said the elder Finn, “and I’d like to welcome to the stage now a wonderful guitar player I’ve just had the extreme pleasure of learning how to play with — and there’s still more to learn, but for now let’s welcome Mike Campbell!” They then proceeded to perform a short but sweet version of Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 single “Man of the World,” a Peter Green song obscure enough that there was no applause of recognition when it kicked off, with most in the audience probably assuming it was yet another unreleased tune off the Finns’ upcoming album.
Stevie Nicks said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone that the new version of the group would use the tour to spotlight at least a little material from the era before she and now-departed Lindsey Buckingham joined the band. So Finn and Campbell dusting off a really, really pre-Buckingham-Nicks chestnut suggests they’re taking that idea seriously… or maybe the two guitarists just thought it would be a fun first- practice exercise of their own accord.
In any case, there was no danger of the other song Campbell sat in on going unrecognized: a six-minute rendition of Davie Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” which had Campbell doing the initial coda soloing in the familiar Mick Ronson style, but which eventually built into a twin-lead jam with Finn that really gave an idea of the fireworks that could happen in arenas later this year while Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks stand back.
“You’ve all had your tickets since last Christmas,” Finn joked early in the set, an allusion to the show only having been announced at noon the day before, later acknowledging that the quick-draw fans are “possibly the same people that have won a lot of prizes on the radio.”
The only other reference to impending bigger venues came when someone called out a request for “Go Your Own Way,” the kind of joke Fin’s probably going to have to get used to it at solo (or duo) shows. “I should be ready to start it up by now,” he said. “Just you wait.”
Other guests included Wendy Melvoin, who spent six months in New Zealand in the early 2000s working on Finn’s “One All” album. She mentioned having worked with a number of celebrated musicians in her time, “but this one was life-changing.” (Largo’s Finn-devoted audience was not one to call out, “Wait, more than the other guy?”) Largo regular Jon Brion sat in on multiple instruments, sitting alongside Finn band member John Carrol Kirby for a double-piano solo on “Moonage Daydream” — at the senior Finn’s request, after he called “John” back to the stage and realized they were both headed for the bench.
Liam Finn acknowledged at one point that the audience was being patient for a set that consisted “half of material you’ve never heard before” — actually, only a third, since five of the 17 songs came from their yet-to-be-announced first joint album project. Others came from the father’s or son’s solo catalogs, with only three Crowded House choices, the highlight being a particularly primal guitar-jam version of “Private Universe.” A transplanted New Zealand psych-pop guitarist of note, Conan Mockasin, played a peculiarly appealing style of underwater-sounding guitar throughout and sang lead on his own “Why Are You Crying?” The two-hour show began and ended with its most ancient non-Fleetwood Mac tunes, Split Enz’s “Sweet Dreams” and “Message to My Girl,” the latter introduced by Liam as the song his dad wrote for his mum, Sharon, who also made a fleeting appearance in Thursday’s band, “before I was even a twinkle in the eye.” Actually, both the song and Liam came out in 1983… a very good year in Finn history.
No other Finn shows are on the books except for a series of symphonic dates in Australia and New Zealand, as Fleetwood Mac rehearsals get into serious gear this summer.