Almost no other rock band was bigger than Fleetwood Mac in the mid-to-late 1970s. Sure, they’d been going strong for roughly a decade by then; however, it was the inclusion of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (following the departure of Bob Welch) on 1975’s self-titled tenth LP that took their mainstream appeal to the next level. Of course, 1977’s Rumors was even bigger, while 1979’s experimental double album, Tusk, continued their creative prosperity (despite being considered a commercial failure at the time).
Naturally, the greatness of that trilogy meant that the band’s debut concert recording, 1980’s Live, was as highly anticipated as it was enormously satisfying. Comprised mostly of material from the 1979 – 1980 Tusk tour (as well as a few pieces from the preceding Rumors and Fleetwood Mac tours, of course), it contained virtually every song you could possibly want to hear from their most recent records.
Unsurprisingly, it sold quite well, which is partially why Rhino is now celebrating its 40th anniversary with a newly remastered and expanded 3-CD/2-LP version of Live. In addition to the album itself, the package includes more than an hour of unreleased tunes. Plus, the “Super Deluxe Tour Edition” bundle (not provided for review) comes in a 12×12 slipcase and adds a bunch of awesome and worthwhile tchotchkes (such as an in-depth booklet and a replica backstage pass, button, sticker, ticket, and advertisement). Thus, this updated rendering of Live looks and sounds better than ever, making it a must-own commemoration of Fleetwood Mac’s stellar first live collection.
The original 90-minute show is still immensely delightful, as the group wastes no time launching into a well-paced and enthusiastically performed journey through major hits and lesser-known (but no less enjoyable) album selections. Obviously, Tusk is represented considerably via heartfelt ballads like “Over & Over” and “Sara”, not to mention the aridly rowdy “Not That Funny”. Meanwhile, Rumors and Fleetwood Mac charm with their biggest tracks (“Dreams”, “Don’t Stop”, “Go Your Own Way”, “Landslide”, and “Rhiannon”) and arguably deeper cuts (“Say You Love Me” and “I’m So Afraid”). Understandably, the audience is overwhelmingly excited during the whole thing, which may seem like a negligible detail but actually adds a lot to the authenticity of the experience and bond between the crowd and musicians. (The same holds true for Fleetwood Mac’s infrequent banter around the songs.)
By and large, these interpretations are quite faithful to their studio renditions, but with some noticeable nuances making them feel sufficiently fresh, too, such as heightened harmonies on “Dreams”. The addition of Peter Green’s “Oh Well” (which first appeared as a single in 1969) and the Beach Boys’ “[The] Farmer’s Daughter” (from 1963’s Surfin’ U.S.A.) are great, too, since they retain the prominent vibe and details of the original takes yet also modify them enough to fit within the warm ruggedness of the Nicks-Buckingham era.
Some of the best content on the revised Live comes from the previously unreleased material from 1977 – 1982. In particular, “Second Hand News”, “Tusk”, “Gold Dust Woman”, and “The Chain” are perhaps even more evocative and/or fiery than the official tracks. Likewise, the demos for “Fireflies” and “One More Night” provide fascinating insights into how the final versions developed. They’re a bit slower and sparser than the eminent counterparts, leaning closer to a singer/songwriter piano ballad aesthetic. Rather than being merely a likable but less consequential collection, then, this bonus set is just as essential as the main show.
Live was always a tremendously representative and executed assortment of Fleetwood Mac’s best tunes from the time. With this updated sequence, those classics sound better than ever, giving both longtime fans and newcomers a stronger glimpse into how untouchable and immaculate the group was at the turn of the decade. Combined with a hefty amount of equally worthy extra songs—as well as the bonus physical materials that look great—this is undoubtedly the ultimate testament to the quintet’s initial competence and chemistry.