Review: Mack Fleetwood – Empire Music Hall, Belfast
To say I am a fan of Fleetwood Mac is something of an understatement.
I grew up listening to them and jumped at the chance to go see them when they toured in 2013 and 2015 in Dublin, both without and with Christine McVie. So naturally when I saw that a tribute band was coming to Belfast I had to take a look.
Mack Fleetwood are Ireland’s number 1 Fleetwood Mac tribute act and it isn’t hard to see why. As I push my way through the thronging crowd in the Empire Music hall to the sound of ‘Sara‘, I am struck by how on point the band are. Anyone attempting to sound like Stevie Nicks has one hell of a challenge on their hands but Siobhan rises to it well, resplendent in long velvet frock coat and glittery hat.
Playing ‘Oh Daddy’ Maureen gets a turn to shine as Christine McVie and she possesses the same velvety smooth vocal tone. On ‘Sisters of the Moon’, from 1979s Tusk, we start to hear the more bluesy side of the Mac and their vocal harmonies and, although it wasn’t a big hit for the band, it’s great that it is included in the set as it’s an out-there fan favourite.
Following this up with ‘Tusk‘ is an inspired move as it is an amazing song and I don’t know how Mack Fleetwood did it but the song was complete with brass. It is extremely difficult not to move along to ‘Tusk‘ and so the party atmosphere in the Empire was buoyed up after what was a heavy enough start. Addressing the crowd Stevie/Siobhan tell us they are going to change it up and cool it down a bit and the rest of the band take a well deserved break off stage as she is accompanied by Conor/Lindsey Buckingham for a rendition of ‘Landslide‘. One of my favourite Fleetwood Mac songs, I was thrilled that they did it justice and I was stunned by Siobhans impressive note hold at the end of the song. The lady can sing!
The rest of the band rejoin the duo on stage on stools and they launch into an acoustic version of ‘Say You Love Me’. I am wholly impressed by the four part harmonies and I can’t help but think this is where Mack Fleetwood shine the most, while stripped back and showing off their vocal chops on tracks like ‘I Don’t Want To Know’.
The band exit the stage again leaving Maureen/ Christine, accompanied by Andrew on keyboards, to sing the beautiful ‘Songbird‘. It is a romantic and touching moment and a glance around the venue reveals many couples taking advantage of the mood to have a bit of a slow dance or sneaky smooch.
Graham as John McVie and Ciaran as Mick Fleetwood return to the stage and Christine departs as the guys show off their music skills by playing some hits from Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. ‘Albatross,’ the guitar based instrumental, is just mesmerising to listen to and watch. ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ follows and the bluesy track has everyone swaying along.
Surprisingly some of Nicks’ solo offerings are played in tonight’s set and I am overjoyed when I hear the opening chords of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ (you may know it as the guitar sample in Destiny Childs’ ‘Bootylicious‘.) ‘Room On Fire’ follows later in the set also.
1987 hit from Tango in the Night ‘Seven Wonders‘ is popular with the crowded Empire with everyone singing along (although I am suspicious I was the loudest) and by now we are in familiar chart hit Mac territory. ‘Hold Me’ from 1982’s Mirage pops up in the set at this point, possibly one of the most underrated, yet brilliant, songs and a rare duet between Buckingham and Christine.
Then it is just non stop wall to wall hits, ‘Big Love’, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Dreams‘ all get an airing, while for me the best are saved for last, in the shape of ‘Little Lies’ and ‘Everywhere‘. I love Stevie Nicks but, for me, Christine McVie’s honey smooth voice is perfect and those songs are the vehicles that show it off best. And Maureen as Christine really shines on these songs – in fact on ‘Everywhere‘, the whole band do as their backing vocals are faultless, creating the shimmery pop classic we all know and love.
‘The Chain,‘ complete with famous bass solo (used in Formula 1 racing coverage), is part of the closing trio with ‘Don’t Stop‘ and then it’s sadly time for ‘Go Your Own Way’ and the night is brought to a close.
Playing for well over two and a half hours, Mack Fleetwood have stamina to match their musical prowess and talent. Some tribute bands can come off as half baked or cheesy and inauthentic but not Mack Fleetwood. Their passion for the music of Fleetwood Mac shines through and, although I found the first part of the set heavy going for the first three or four songs, it was generally a well put together set of songs, combining big hits, fan favourites and blues numbers. The next time Mack Fleetwood are in Belfast, I will be there with bells on (and chiffon and lace like the High Priestess of Rock herself) and with a gang of friends in tow. The perfect night out for any fan of Fleetwood Mac.