It took my friend and I two hours on Saturday to arrive at the Wells Fargo Center to see Fleetwood Mac’s Philly concert, and though we didn’t know it as we watched Buckingham reach his musical climax, but it would take us almost two hours to get back to campus. And we had thought missing Big Boi was catastrophic.
As might be evident from that last thought, much of our night was guided by misjudgments. The directions I printed out caused us to miss our bus, leaving us stranded in Angora for an hour, waiting on a traffic island for another bus that never came. We ended up taking the train to Suburban and shelling out twenty bucks for a cab to the concert, but by that time the show was already half over.
“You here for Fleetwood?” asked the grey-haired ticket collector as we ran up to the stadium in the growing dark. He raised his eyebrows. We were not only late for the concert of the century, but young to boot. We were greeted like apparitions.
Shrugging his shoulders, the ticket collector managed to recover himself. “You missed ‘Tusk’ and ‘Dreams,’ so…”
Luckily, the group would cover many of the old favorites during the second half of the show and the four encores. Stevie Nicks was giving “Gypsy” her all as we found our seats, stepping over a spate of shiny-pated polo-wearing fans, clearly hold-outs from the band’s earlier years.
“So I’m back, to the velvet underground/
Back to the floor, that I love/
To a room with some lace and paper flowers/
Back to the gypsy that I was/
To the gypsy… that I was”.
And she was back, tigress of that husky voice, those scarves, those famous albums covers, that dizzy-making twirling.
The man next to me had his foot up on the seat in front of him. It was swathed in bandages. He had one hand in the air, swaying to the music, and another bringing beer to his lips. “Your bright eyes” he sang, croaked, cried. A woman across the stadium from us was on her feet, hands clutched to her chest. A young man bearing Nicks’ face on a shirt stepped and snapped to the beat, nodding his head in apparent approval. “She’s still got it,” he seemed to be saying. “She never lost it,” said the couple in front of me, reaching out for each other’s hands.
Stevie took a step back for the next number, letting her ex-flame take center stage. Buckingham tried out some awkward, wooden kicks, extending his skinny legs in short hops, trying not to trip on his electric guitar’s cord. I couldn’t help thinking that he must be showing off for her – after all these years of collaboration, how could there not be some lingering sentiment between one of the most famous musical couples of all time? He pulled cluster after cluster of dense, luminous notes out of his instrument, doing his strange hop and kick, looking over his left shoulder occasionally. Checking to see, maybe, if she was watching from backstage.
Mick Fleetwood on drums rocked out steadily throughout the night, shining especially during a seven-minute solo of blurred mallet-work and tense rhythmic release. He was dressed, predictably, in black velvet trousers and lipstick-red shoes. His British accent rang out through the stadium whenever he addressed the audience.
The last song on the official line-up was the obligatory “Go Your Own Way,” the kind of song, like many Fleetwood Mac songs, meant to be sung at full volume in a car racing down an empty highway to nowhere. Or maybe an uncertain somewhere. That downbeat before the chorus gets me every time. It was marked by a colossal, communal stamp as the mammoth audience brought their feet down together, some rising to sing and sway, some looking straight up at the ceiling, swathed with blue spotlights. I was surprised to feel that rush of feel-good forward motion you get after a pep-talk or an inspiring Oprah episode, one where she invites everyone into her closet and makes self-deprecating comments about how many pairs of shoes she has. And then everyone hugs and totters out on heels that Oprah “could really live without,” a fact that she insists upon.
“How could I ever change things that I feel?” I asked myself, along with a few thousand other beery and teary-eyed fans. “Tell me why,” we sang, “everything turned around?” Tell us, we begged the ceiling. “You can go your own way,” the ceiling said back. So did Stevie, Lindsey, and a bunch of other people. If Oprah had been there, she would have joined in.
After the show, my friend and I didn’t care about going our own way as much as going in the direction of our beds. Trying to snag a cab while drunk Fleetwood Mac fans and drunker Phillies fans from the stadium across the street stagger into each other all around you is not fun. (Although imagining their interactions certainly is: “What a show, man.” “I know, dude – that last double play was off the hook.” “I know, gotta love that two-part harmony.”).
Missing the last train back to Swarthmore is less fun. We ended up taking the subway to 69th street and catching a bus a half hour later, getting back to campus by a little after 1 AM. The final leg of our journey involved trudging past row after row of fragrant flowers, drooping in the dark, humming fragments of songs that have no doubt bewitched several generations of college students.
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