Fleetwood Mac Blaze Through One Monster Show

"We knew this was a bunch of people who love music," said an appreciative Stevie Nicks about the Monstrous crowd at Fleetwood Mac's muscular 75-minute set, which capped Monster's 2014 Retailer Awards at the Paris Ballroom in the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas on January 8. The mighty Mac were the headliners for a night that saw Monster celebrate its 35th anniversary with style and class.

And no one was prouder of the night's events than Head Monster Noel Lee, who has featured A-list artists at previous Retailer Awards ranging from Ray Charles to Rod Stewart to Diana Ross to Alicia Keys. And on Wednesday night, Fleetwood Mac was in the house to put a fine exclamation point on what also served as the final night of their year-long tour.

I had the perfect A/V vantage point for the show, perched at the front of a riser just to the right of the soundboard. It took a few songs to get the mix dialed in properly — "every night is an adventure!" I heard one of the board engineers chuckle about 10 minutes into the set — but once both band and sound were in sync, their special mesh of ferocity and finesse came to the fore, especially noticeable during the second half of "Rhiannon" and all of "Tusk," and the intensity level stayed high to the end.

Lindsey Buckingham's furious solo take on "Big Love" was a fingerpicking guitar clinic. When Stevie Nicks took over for "Gold Dust Woman," serious magic was in the air, and the band turned in the best performance of that song I've ever seen them do. Drummer Mick Fleetwood commenced the haunting song with clear, clinking chimes and stark cowbell hits, and bassist John McVie locked right into the groove with Fleetwood's kick drum. Stevie's echo-laden vocal wails and improvs beautifully played off and around Buckingham's delayed and left-right panned riffs.

"I'm So Afraid" opened with Fleetwood and Buckingham jamming together, followed by an ominous organ fill from secondary bandmember Brett Tuggle (who also plays in Lindsey's solo band). Buckingham went into a zone during his lengthy guitar solo, stomping across the stage like, well, a monster, occasionally leaping into the air to punctuate some seriously squealing riffs. After the song ended, the crowd roared, and Buckingham let out a few primal screams in response (as he is sometimes wont to do).

More Buckingham showcase jamming came during his signature Mac tune, "Go Your Own Way." Nicks donned a top hat and brandished a tambourine, and the former yet forever-linked lovers turned to look directly at each other when they sang the telling lines, "packing up/shacking up/is all you want to do." The right amount of crunch and sustain came through in the solo, and Buckingham jumped up on the drum riser to bash a cymbal with his hand to further accentuate the endgame vibe.

Closing the show with a triumphant run through "Don't Stop," Fleetwood Mac's final tango in the night was clearly the perfect bookend to one Monsteriffic anniversary celebration.

Photo courtesy of Barb Gonzalez Photography. From left, McVie flanks Fleetwood, who's making eyes with Nicks (back turned). Buckingham (not shown) is somewhere off to the right, smokin' through yet another amazing solo.

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