Mick Fleetwood has enjoyed a long and impressive career, though this is surely one of the highlights. A tall, bearded figure, he sits behind his drum kit and delightedly introduces the extraordinary cast he has managed to assemble for this tribute to one-time Fleetwood Mac partner Peter Green. From Britain, there is his one-time boss, the veteran blues hero John Mayall, along with David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Bill Wyman and Noel Gallagher. The American contingent includes Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and Kirk Hammett from Metallica.
And then, of course, there are members of Fleetwood Mac, with whom he has now spent 53 years. They may be best known as a massively successful Anglo-American AOR band but Fleetwood wants their early years remembered. So he has curated this high-profile event (which is also filmed), focusing on the band’s role in the 60s British blues boom and the importance of Green, who quit Fleetwood Mac half a century ago. Fleetwood has described him as his “greatest mentor”.
Green was one of the guitar heroes, and casualties, of the 60s. He had the seemingly impossible task of taking over from Eric Clapton in Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, but did so in style. In 1967 he poached Fleetwood and bass player John McVie from Mayall and formed his own band, which he named after his rhythm section. They played self-written songs and classics by bluesmen such as Elmore James, and their first album was a hit. A series of successful singles showed that Green could also write thoughtful ballads and atmospheric instrumentals or edge towards heavy metal. But drugs – including a potent form of LSD – put an end to his Fleetwood Mac career in 1970.
This celebration of his work starts with the blues. Fleetwood drives the songs with his gently forceful, unflashy drumming, leading a house band that includes three classy guitarists – Rick Vito, Andy Fairweather Low and the Grammy-winning Jonny Lang. They could play alone for hours, but soon begin backing the special guests. Gibbons stomps efficiently through Doctor Brown; Tyler provides a furious, witty treatment of Green’s mildly risque Rattlesnake Shake; and Christine McVie gives a reminder of her blues roots with Stop Messin’ Around. Gallagher seems worried he is out of place (“I know what you’re thinking…”) but produces a fine, no-nonsense acoustic treatment of World Turning. Townshend describes his meetings with Green (“a sad figure”) and plays the rousing Station Man, a Fleetwood Mac song from after the Green era.
The finale is dominated by the hits. Neil Finn sings the sad and poignant Man of the World, while Gibbons and Tyler crash through the pained Oh Well (Part One) before Gilmour comes on to play the brooding guitar instrumental Oh Well (Part Two), apparently never heard on stage before. Black Magic Woman is followed by a real surprise: an appearance by Jeremy Spencer, one of the original four members of Fleetwood Mac, who quit in 1971 to join a religious cult. His slide guitar technique, voice and love of Elmore James are remarkably intact.
This intriguing show ends with Green’s most compelling song, the pained and paranoid Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown), performed by Kirk Hammett with suitable frenzy, and the lyrical, bestselling instrumental Albatross. If Green was watching, he should have been delighted.