Photo: Jeff Kravitz
Lorde, Haim, Keith Urban: 13 Fleetwood Mac MusiCares Tribute Performances
Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" is not only a monumental classic rock staple. It's not only the former campaign song for the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton. With its central theme of "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow … yesterday's gone," the bouncy tune could just as well serve as an ad hoc battle cry for the thousands of people who have benefited from MusiCares, the Recording Academy's health and human services charity.
Fittingly, Fleetwood Mac — Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks — were the guests of honor at the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute gala on Jan. 26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The quintet became the first band in history to receive the prestigious honor as a group in recognition of their numerous musical accomplishments and range of philanthropic support.
Rounded out by a reception, tribute concert, awards presentation and live auction, the annual GRAMMY Week event raised more than $7 million in support of MusiCares' programs and services, which span medical, financial and addiction recovery assistance, and disaster relief for music people in need.
The anchor of the event was the star-studded tribute concert, with an eclectic group of performers interpreting 13 gems from Fleetwood Mac's rich catalog, backed by musical director Don Was’ white-hot band. From Alison Krauss and Lorde to Imagine Dragons and Keith Urban — and of course Fleetwood Mac's triumphant finale — here is a rundown of the Person of the Year performance highlights that delighted the NYC audience.
Imagine Dragons, "Big Love"
GRAMMY-winning quartet Imagine Dragons drew the honors of kicking off the night, which they did a big way, taking on "Big Love." "It's a pretty intimidating song," said lead singer Dan Reynolds prior to the event. "It's a force to be reckoned with, a lot of instrumentation that is beyond what you hear on your first listen. So it took a lot, and we're nervous, but we're excited." The Dragons pulled it off, much to the delight of Buckingham himself who mentioned in passing that he liked their performance.
Brandi Carlile, "Say You Love Me"
Brandi Carlile and twin brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth told us before the show that Fleetwood Mac set the bar high for them as a trio of harmony singers, carving a space for a band with male and female vocals, and even calling them "the other Beatles." On this night, they put that harmony vocal influence to good work, effortlessly soaring through one of Fleetwood Mac's biggest hits, with Carlile's gorgeously gravelly voice flanked by the twin Hanseroths' uncanny blend. The results were stunning.
Portugal. The Man, "I'm So Afraid"
First-time GRAMMY nominees Portugal. The Man unleashed a mesmerizing rendition of "I'm So Afraid,” from Fleetwood Mac's 1975 self-titled album (GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2016). Portugal's pulsing rhythms drove the song into a digression of soulful, sustained guitar bends, with guitarist Eric Howk doing his best Buckingham impression. They even pulled off the “guitarmonies” (guitar-harmonies) on their way to providing one the night's most moody and atmospheric moments.
Juanes, "Hold Me"
Fresh from picking up his 22nd Latin GRAMMY win this past November, Juanes helmed "Hold Me" from 1982's Mirage. The Colombian put a flavorful spin on the jaunty Christine McVie-penned tune. The current 60th GRAMMY nominee topped his performance with a fiery guitar solo, which he played with a natural-grain Fender Stratocaster.
Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, "Songbird"
Christine McVie's gorgeous Rumours piano ballad received an Americana-inspired makeover by longtime collaborators Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas. The heavenly delivery of Krauss' vocals added an extra touch of bittersweet, while Douglas interjected somber dobro embellishments. A cover "like never before," the harmonious mixture served as a shining example of the elasticity of Fleetwood Mac's songbook on this night.
Stevie Nicks' 1982 chestnut was rocked up with some sisterly flare courtesy of Haim. Danielle and Este Haim traded lead vocals, while the former also did a finely serviceable job of interpreting Buckingham's inspired original guitar parts. Meanwhile, Alana Haim contributed harmony vocals and strummed away on acoustic guitar.
Keith Urban, "Second Hand News"
Kicked off by house band drummer Kenny Aronoff's machine gun snare, Keith Urban injected plenty of his signature loose rock groove-meets-Down Under twang on "Second Hand News." Urban's guitar solo wowed, per usual, but before he told us why Buckingham is his real guitar hero:
"Lindsey is one of the most underrated guitarists, in my opinion, of all-time," said Urban. " I say that because he doesn't play like anybody. Most guitarists — whether it be [Eric] Clapton or [Mark] Knopfler or Jeff Beck — you can hear their influences in their playing somehow. [With] Lindsey, I can't hear any of his influences. He's just such an original player."
Lorde, "Silver Springs"
Not that she needed to, but Lorde proved herself in a big way, stepping up to the mic to deliver a chilling version of the heartbreaking Rumours B-side, "Silver Springs." Beginning with her signature sparse melodic feast, Lorde breathed the opening verse out of her soul over only a solo piano. Before long, the minimalism gave way, exploding into the B section and reaching terminal velocity as Lorde moved around the stage like a woman possessed. Writhing and dancing, she screamed the final lyric, "You will never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you," and the room was hers right up until the last reprise of the opening line.
OneRepublic delighted with their spirited take of "Everywhere" from 1987's Tango In The Night. Frontman Ryan Tedder's voice soared on the dreamy synth-drenched Christine McVie track, hitting the chorus' high notes with bell-like clarity. With even President Bill Clinton and wife Hillary Clinton bobbing along, the group closed with a left-field crescendo in the form of an a cappella harmony vocal.
Little Big Town, "Dreams"
Tackling one of the more ubiquitous Fleetwood Mac classics, the magnetic four-piece came out with a swagger that likely made Nicks proud. Up for the Best Country Album GRAMMY this year, Little Big Town owe a lot to their mixed-gendered predecessors, and their gratitude showed. The unforgettable chorus of "Dreams" came across like gospel, as fresh today as the day it was written, proof that some songs are truly timeless.
Jared Leto, "Never Going Back Again"
"When I was a kid, one album my mom would play night after night was Rumours," said Jared Leto before ushering in the third track on that album. Aided by a backing choir collective, somehow the singer/actor's interpretation of the Buckingham-penned song bottled more heartbreak and desperation as if he'd be down "one time … two times" himself. One of the more brief songs of the night, the performance clocked in at just over two minutes.
Miley Cyrus, "Landslide"
Perhaps Fleetwood Mac's most oft-covered song (at least according to Nicks' acceptance speech later in the night), "Landslide" stands as a piece of work synonymous with the group's sound. Miley Cyrus' version managed to be both faithful and her own. Noticing they just couldn't help themselves, she egged on the audience to sing along, and by the time she got to the transformational chorus lyrics, it was clear Cyrus absolutely meant every word. The thoughtful repeat of the powerful final chorus line, "I'm getting older too," felt like a shared confession from Cyrus and the collectively captivated audience.
Zac Brown Band, "Don't Stop"
The GRAMMY-winning collective put a chicken-fried spin on the aforementioned "Don't Stop." Decked out in a white tuxedo jacket and his trademark top hat, Zac Brown's vocals shadowed the tune's unforgettable melody, albeit with an authentic country twist. Jimmy De Martini's fiddle breaks added some extra grease to the performance.
Fleetwood Mac Medley: "The Chain," "Little Lies," "Tusk," "Gold Dust Woman," "Go Your Own May"
After 13 rousing performances, Fleetwood Mac took the stage for a special encore featuring five of their hits. Starting with the moody "The Chain," the group was joined by singer/songwriter Harry Styles. John McVie's bass rumbled and Mick Fleetwood rocked the pocket as Styles added a unique ingredient to the song's harmony vocals. Christine McVie counted off the scandalous "Little Lies," which was punctuated by an extended screaming guitar outro by Buckingham. The title track from 1979's Tusk sounded as unique as it did nearly 40 years ago, with its infectious rhythms and horn lines going over gangbusters.
Rich lighting enveloped the stage as Fleetwood's tribal beat and Buckingham's spooky harmonic framework created the perfect atmosphere for Stevie Nicks, who donned a gold shawl and cast a spell on attendees with her hypnotic vocal on “Gold Dust Woman”. The finale wrapped with the evening's biggest singalong as the audience recited the words to their iconic Rumours hit "Go Your Own Way," all making for a poignant sendoff on a momentous night for MusiCares and Fleetwood Mac.