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Mick Fleetwood's all-star Peter Green tribute concert arrives live On Demand
By Gary Graff
firstname.lastname@example.org, @GraffonMusic on Twitte
Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2021
See more SOUND CHECK
Mick Fleetwood admits that there were times last February when he was overwhelmed by what he wrought.
The drummer and co-namesakes of Fleetwood Mac -- still leading the group after nearly 55 years -- organized an all-star concert at the London Palladium to "Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac." Its roster -- Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, the Who's Pete Townshend, Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Noel Gallagher, just to name a few -- was dizzying. And Fleetwood found the task of organizing and executing the tribute, held five months to the day before Green's death last July 25 at the age of 73, was both invigorating and terrifying.
"The whole time I'm quietly wearing my brown underpants, wondering if I can keep it all going," Fleetwood, 73, says by phone from Maui, where he resides. "It's a lot of people coming in and out, on and off stage. We didn't have a whole lot of rehearsal to do that part of it. But I think it comes off OK. I'm very happy with it."
The concert, held Feb. 25, 2020, was filmed and recorded, with the former premiering as a webcast on Saturday, April 24. The album, meanwhile, comes out April 30. And while it's the later-70s version of Fleetwood Mac that's best known thanks to multi-platinum, hit-filled albums such as "Fleetwood Mac," "Rumours" and "Tusk," Fleetwood hopes the "Celebrate" project will spur more appreciation for the earlier days of the group he, Green and bassist John McVie started during 1967, after leaving John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
"The requisite was about Peter, and quietly saying, 'How did this strange band with a really, really peppered history, survive?'" Fleetwood explains. "It's almost unbelievable, to put it mildly. So it's really all about focusing on Peter and the early days of Fleetwood Mac and the material that came out of that period."
Celebrated as one of Britain's premiere guitarists during the 60s -- on a par for many aficionados with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page -- Green was compromised by what may have been drug-induced psychoses for much of his life. He was introduced to LSD at a Grateful Dead concert and was diagnosed with schizophrenia during the mid-70s. Having left the band in 1970, he continued to work with Fleetwood and even played, uncredited, on its "Penguin" and "Tusk" albums. During the late 90s he formed the Peter Green Splinter Group, later touring with Peter Green and Friends, and the British Blues All Stars.
"I have so much admiration for Peter, and affection," says Fleetwood, who never gave up his dream of bringing Green back to Fleetwood Mac. Green, he adds, was aware of the concert but, despite hopes, did not turn up. "He was a major, lovely friend, for sure. And no better musical lessons were learned by all of us, including me, in all of that work we did together and what (Green) did to lead us as a band.
"He's just one hell of a player, and with so much feeling. People like Buddy Guy, all over, they had real reverence for this guy who came out of England but knew his (stuff). That's certainly how all these people (who played at the show) felt."
Fleetwood had little problem bringing friends into the fold for the concert. Gibbons and Tyler, he says, had committed up to two years before the actual date. Fleetwood Mac's roster gave him the likes of its other original guitarist, Jeremy Spencer, Christine McVie, Rick Vito and Neil Finn, the Split Enz/Crowded House member who toured the band during 2018-19. McVie was absent, however. "He got himself a new boat and was sailing," Fleetwood says with a laugh -- but adds that after the band's last tour, the bassist "was traveled out."
Adding Gilmour to the lineup allowed the ensemble -- which also included former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, Jonny Lang, Andy Fairweather Low, and current Who drummer Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr's Son -- to take on the never-played "Oh Well (Pt. 2)," a track as ambient and spacious as "Pt. 1" is ferocious. "I have a vague memory thought about doing it on stage and Peter said, 'We can't pull this off,'" Fleetwood says. "So that was incredibly special, just having Gilmour. He's such a gentleman and was so supportive."
Townshend, meanwhile, came as a particular surprise. "Pete turned up, and I don't know him very well," Fleetwood recalls, "I said, 'Well, why did you want to come?' He said, 'Are you kidding me? One of my most famous songs was, to put it mildly, very influenced by you,' so that was fun." Townshend plays on the song in question, 1970's "Station Man," whose chord progression influenced the Who epic "Won't Get Fooled Again."
"The whole vibe was very unslick," Fleetwood says. "All I can say is that everyone left their egos at the door and played for the music, and for Peter. The whole thing was like a dream to me. It was like going to the dentist, when they put you to sleep and then wake you up and you go, 'Is it over? Have you taken out my teeth?'
"I was a bit like that. People are going, 'It was a great night' and I'm going was it? It was, wasn't it?' I felt like I was on an ether sensation the whole time."
Fleetwood is also, in hindsight, grateful for the timing of the concert, just in front of when lockdowns began around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"My stomach comes up in my mouth when I realize if it had been four days later, what might have happened," he notes. "There was, like, this huge line in the sand, and right after was when you couldn't get on a plane or move around or go anywhere.
Fleetwood spent many months after the concert working, remotely of course, with director Martyn Atkins and music producer Glyn Johns. Green's death, meanwhile, led reconciliation with estranged Mac member Lindsey Buckingham, who'd been controversially fired from the band in 2018. "He'd wrote to me and said, 'I know how said you must be,' and then we spoke and it was a lovely way to reconnect," Fleetwood says. The two have since bonded over Fleetwood's desire to learn to play guitar, and he doesn't rule out the possibility of having Buckingham back in the band at some point in the future.
That future is totally up in the air, however. Fleetwood -- who filmed his own version of Nathan Apodaca (aka 420doggface208)'s viral TikTok video to the hit "Dreams" -- has downplayed Christine McVie's recent comments that the band was finished touring, though he does agree that large-scale road trips are probably not in the cards. Beyond that, he notes, "my vision of the future is really far-reaching" but understandably on hold for the time being.
"You're talking to mister never say never," Fleetwood acknowledges with a laugh. "I have lived my life in and through this band -- to a fault. So when the dust settles I hope there's some openness where maybe we can do something that could be a version of saying goodbye -- maybe like the (Rolling) Stones, who have been permanently saying goodbye for 30 years. I think there's a way to do it where we, whoever 'we' is at that point, can keep this story going. I really don't think it's over yet."
"Mick Fleetwood and Friends Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac" begins streaming on demand at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 24, through April 28 via nugs.net. The companion album and video package will be released on April 30.
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