Mick Fleetwood and his Blues Band
Words || Jack Cameron Stanton
While Mick Fleetwood and His Blues Band were full of primal enthusiasm, cyclonic on the Metro Theatre stage, they seemed to be missing something: the love was there, the talent apparent in every musician, but nowhere did those aspects converge. With a cameo from Jimmy Barnes, and a stoic performance from Rick Vito who wrestled persistently with petty technical issues, the night scintillated at some moments and dulled in others.
Mick Fleetwood and His Blues Band played the Metro Theatre gig on Easter Monday. Many of the younger revellers were at home convalescing from their four-day weekend of unbridled debauchery. But Mick’s announcement of a cheeky sideshow after the annual Bluesfest up at Byron Bay drew a much older crowd, with generations of people allured there by the aromas of nostalgia.
And don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms with a night of rehashed blues and golden oldies, but Mick Fleetwood and his Blues Band played a show that was, quite honestly, a little uninspiring. The greatest moments of the evening were the slower, more soulful ‘John Lee Hooker’ styled numbers, which ignited hearts with pockets of passion. A few occasional yells were heard, the classic ‘Aw yeah’ or ‘You tell ‘em, Rick’, but this interaction felt contrived and disingenuous, as though the members of the crowd had watched enough Youtube videos to know that uncontrolled bouts of passion were expected from them. Either that, or they were deriving a kind of emotional solace that remained unknown to me.
Let me disclose by saying that I have never found personal resonance in bluegrass music. And neither did it particularly resonate when executed on stage. Every bluegrass tune they played (or, if I can quote my father, “Any of that hillbilly shit”) seemed paradoxically to increase the energy of the band but flatten the spirits of the crowd. It seems so counterintuitive; in one breath they are singing these heaving, adage-like blues songs, with their hearts on their sleeves, and then suddenly everyone is bopping and the musicians are grinning at each and nodding their heads. Echoes of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac came out like a prayer, with popular hip-wigglers like ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’ being obvious favourites.
The band was tight, however. Rick Vito was a sound musician, his glistening vibrato guitar solos a personal highlight. And his gruff singing voice was sculpted for the blues. In fact he outshined Mick who, one the drums, gave off too much of a superstar vibe for my liking. Halfway through the show he continued requesting his roadie to feed him wine while he played. Mick would be keeping the beat, focused on the drums, pulling faces, then he would turn to his right and hovering next to his face was a glass of red wine held up by his roadie who, impossibly, seemed to anticipate and duck and dodge all of Mick’s drumming. If there was any ‘rockstar’ component to be drawn out of that, for whatever reason, then it’s a little lost on me.
The Metro Theatre proved once again its incompetency as a venue. Rick Vito’s mic had waged war against him from the first song, and when Jimmy Barnes jumped onto stage to sing their closing few songs, he experienced identical sound troubles. The music often clipped, and whether that is from the speakers or the sound techs I’m not sure. There is absolutely nowhere to sit. When I ordered a gin and tonic then asked the bartender for a lime he pulled up a bottle of Schwepps lime cordial and, without irony, asked: “this?”
Near the end of the night, one audacious man in the crowd cried out as the band was tuning their instruments.
“Oi . . . uh, play some Fleetwood Mac! Yeah!”
A lady in the crowd, hidden from me, responded to him.
“Shut up you dickhead,” she replied.
Snickers of assent rose from everyone else; in their eyes, he was trying to be an antagonistic dickhead. But I had sympathy – Indeed the night had left something out and, though I didn’t agree that the solution was a prescribed rendition of ‘Dreams’, I shared his dread of another formulaic, bouncy bluegrass song that sounded identical to the previous ones before it.