There was a time when Fleetwood Mac made loving fun. Stevie Nicks twirled, stadiums were filled and pop-music history was written. Unfortunately, those heydays were over a decade ago. Nicks isn't the graceful sprite she once was, there are empty seats at midsize arenas and Fleetwood Mac lacks the contemporary musical clout it once enjoyed.
Fleetwood Mac displayed endurance, if not durability, in a Thursday night concert at the University of South Florida Sun Dome. More than 8,000 fans didn't mind looking back with a band whose better days are behind.
Nicks looked healthier and more interested in the proceedings than she did in a solo concert last spring. Wear and tear has left her voice more husky than ever and some notes are now beyond her reach. Some were so off-key one might have guessed her sound monitor had malfunctioned.
But Nicks is still the focal point and resident sweetheart of Fleetwood Mac fans. They still applaud Rhiannon, even if the old mystical thrill is gone.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood obviously enjoyed this stop on the Mac's swan-song tour. Bug-eyed and beat-happy, he patted a pantomimed percussion solo on his torso during World Turning. Fleetwood teamed with John McVie _ one of rock's underrated bassists _ on the classic rhythm riffs of the band they helped form two decades ago.
It now takes two guitarists to fill the gap left by Lindsey Buckingham. Rick Vito handled the lead guitar duties admirably and was a convincing bluesman when the play list reached back to the band's genesis. Billy Burnette substituted swagger for Buckingham's quiet sensuality. This act and his rhythm guitar work were unremarkable.
Christine McVie was served badly by the sound mix, because her vocals were overpowered by the band. Only the finale, a subdued rendition of Songbird, gave McVie the chance to truly shine.
In the end, the 22-song performance worked better as a nostalgia trip than a reaffirmation of Fleetwood Mac's contemporary strength.
_ STEVE PERSALL