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Why a reunion?

Stevie Nicks is on the phone raving about how great it feels to be back with her old Fleetwood Mac mates, singing the old hits, packing the arenas again and generally carrying on as if the 1970s never ended.

But then she pauses. "It's gone so good that part of me is waiting for something to go really wrong," she says.

Fleetwood Mac, of course, is the textbook case of a superstar rock band gone wrong.

During its late-'70s heyday, the quintet dominated FM radio with well-crafted pop tunes such as Don't Stop, Dreams and Rhiannon. Its 1977 disc, Rumours, sold 25-million copies, a remarkable feat for an album made by musicians who were barely speaking to each other when they recorded it.

Though those personality clashes inspired the lyrics for such gems as Go Your Own Way, Second Hand News and The Chain, they eventually ripped Fleetwood Mac apart.

By the early '80s, tension was so thick that the five communicated with one another through their individual managers. Buckingham quit in 1987, followed by Nicks and McVie in the early '90s.

"We were very young. We were very high. And we were not taking care of business at all," says Nicks, who was treated for chemical dependency at the Betty Ford Center in 1987. "The smallest situations led into these huge arguments."

Considering its Hatfield and McCoy past, why is Fleetwood Mac suddenly back on tour?

Chalk it up, in part, to reunion fever. Rock groups have been reforming in droves in recent years, from the Eagles and Kiss to Motley Crue and Jane's Addiction.

Skeptics dismiss these reunions as acts of desperation by musicians with flagging solo careers. Nicks' and Buckingham's last solo albums flopped on the charts, as did a 1995 album by a retooled version of Fleetwood Mac featuring McVie, drummer Mick Fleetwood and new singer Bekka Bramlett. Titled Time, the disc sold an embarrassing 32,000 copies.

No matter what the motivation, reunions have been embraced by fans, who are thrilled at the chance to stroll down memory lane.

No one knows this better than Nicks, 49, an Eagles fan (and friend) who was "totally delighted" when the group re-formed in 1994.

"I was knocked out that they did it. I love hearing them sing those songs. I have a fabulous surround-sound system and a huge TV screen, and I probably watched that show 20 times during the first year it came out," she says, referring to the band's MTV concert, Hell Freezes Over.

Yet Nicks says nostalgia wasn't the reason behind reviving Fleetwood Mac. The key, she says, was finding out that the members had grown up and mellowed out.

"The day before we had our first rehearsal on April 1, I remember I wrote this all up in my journal. I wondered whether it would work out or not, and I decided if everybody didn't get along, it wouldn't last past a week. But we're older now, and the great thing is we have really made sure that before anything got blown out of proportion, the five of us sat down, looked each other in the eye and talked about it, instead of saying, "Let your people talk to my people' and letting the managers take over."

While the five Mac members have finally learned how to play nice, it doesn't mean the reunion will last. Buckingham has hinted he'll go back to working on his next solo album as soon as the band finishes its 45-concert U.S. tour in late November.

"I cannot tell you whether this is going to be the last time we play together," Nicks says. "As of now, we haven't had any bad arguments, but we still have our disagreements. Are those disagreements enough to destroy this whole thing again? I hope not. I have every hope that this is going to go incredibly."

From a money standpoint, it already has. The reunion album, The Dance, has been ensconced in Billboard's Top 10 for the past two months, and the tour is doing brisk business in many cities, despite pricey tickets (ranging from $40 to $60 for the band's show Wednesday at the Ice Palace).

"I think it's horribly too much to charge," Nicks said. "But you know what? You know how much money I'm spending on tickets so my friends can go? Oh, probably about $25,000.

"It's ridiculous that we have to charge that much. Taking it on the road is so expensive. We don't end up coming home with nearly as much money as the public thinks we do."

Onstage, Fleetwood Mac will perform a few of the four new tunes the band wrote for The Dance: Nicks' Sweet Girl, McVie's Temporary One and Buckingham's Bleed to Love Her and My Little Demon. But the group's 2{-hour shows are built around 20-year-old hits, many of which are in vogue among today's rockers: Smashing Pumpkins and Tori Amos have covered Landslide; the alterna-country band Whiskeytown performs Dreams on its current tour; and Courtney Love and Hole turned Gold Dust Woman into a punk anthem last year.

"I was so knocked out," Nicks says, recalling the first time she heard Hole's recording. "I always wished somebody would do my songs. I wish it would happen more. Even if they don't do it well, it doesn't even matter. There's no honor like having someone interpret your song."

Unless it's someone she doesn't approve of.

Asked about an upcoming tribute album featuring lesser-known bands doing the band's hits, Nicks snaps, "I have nothing to do with that. If I could undo that, I would. I'm not dead, so I don't need to have a tribute done to me."