Of Concerts Past: Fleetwood Mac in Philadelphia, 4/6/2013


The first concert I attended: the Kinks at the Philadelphia Spectrum on May 21, 1983. I was 17, less than a month away from high-school graduation. The cost of the ticket: $8.50. My memory tells me it was a first-level seat, as we had an excellent view of the stage, but it may well have been the second – wherever 40Side, Section R was.

According to the Labor Department’s nifty CPI inflation calculator, that $8.50 equals $20.37 in today’s money – about what fans still pay, give or take 10 bucks, for many (though not all) smaller shows. For instance, in a few weeks we’ll be seeing Garland Jeffreys, Marshall Crenshaw and Jonathan Edwards in a round-robin format at an area venue; tickets were $30 each prior to the “service” charge being tacked on. All things considered, very reasonable.

For an arena-sized act, though, a comparable ticket will set you back about 20 to 30 times what I paid to see the Kinks  – and such was the case for Fleetwood Mac, who we saw at the Wells Fargo barn in South Philly in 2013. I’m still in sticker-shock now, two years-and-change removed from the experience. Our two first-level seats – Section 112, Row 15 – clocked in at $299 before the “service” charges upped the tally by $50.

We’ve seen other expensive arena shows, mind you, but Diane and I try our best to avoid them. Besides the outlandish price of entry, many fellow attendees (especially, it seems, those in our vicinity) seem intent on downing and/or spilling as many beers as possible while gabbing away with like-minded pals. No, give us the smaller venues with equally fine artists. People scream, shout and dance about (or clap, tap their feet and sway in their seats), to be sure, but also shut up during the songs – unless, when appropriate, they’re singing along.

Which is all to say: the Fleetwood Mac show surprised me. For a change, the audience around us was well-behaved – primarily middle-aged folks like us, a few with their teenage children in tow. And the band was just plain incredible.  I commented somewhere at the time, I entered a Stevie Nicks fan (and still am), but left a Lindsey Buckingham convert. Despite watching this YouTube video of “Rhiannon” dozens of times…

…I perceived him as a studio wiz-auteur, not a gifted guitarist and showman. This song, in particular, blew my mind:

The set also featured all the tunes one would expect to hear from Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and even one (“Don’t Stop”) of the absent Christine McVie’s classics. (She rejoined the band about a year later.) One highlight was the spellbinding “Sara.”

Another was “Gold Dust Woman.”

I did have some quibbles, however. Stevie’s vocals took a while to warm up, as evidenced by a nasally “Dreams,” which fell a mere four songs into the night, and the slightly better, but not-quite-there “Rhiannon,” which came two songs later. The performance of the latter also lacked the frenzied intensity of yore – understandable, perhaps, given the years between then and now, but disappointing all the same.

The set: Second Hand News/The Chain/Dreams/Sad Angel/Rhiannon/Not That Funny/Tusk/Sisters of the Moon/Sara/Big Love/Landslide/Never Going Back Again/Without You/Gypsy/Eyes of the World/Gold Dust Woman/I’m So Afraid/Stand Back/Go Your Own Way//World Turning/Don’t Stop/Silver Springs///Say Goodbye

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