5 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Live Performances

Through all of its various iterations, Fleetwood Mac toured consistently through their first 15 years. Those tours produced numerous memorable performances, as has also been the case over the following 40-plus years, even though their tours have been fewer and farther between. The five live renditions of songs featured here are representative of Fleetwood Mac at their best, and they also serve as a sampling of the band in some of its different eras and configurations.

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5. “Black Magic Woman,” Boston Tea Party, Boston (February 1970)

Santana may have made the song popular, but Fleetwood Mac’s original frontman and guitarist, Peter Green, wrote it. The band released “Black Magic Woman” as a non-album single in 1968. This particular version, available on the 1998 remastered version of Live in Boston, features an especially rousing performance from Green and the band, highlighted by a three-minute jam at the end of the song.

4. “I’m So Afraid,” University of California, Santa Barbara (May 2, 1976)

Fast forward six years, with Green long gone from the band. But with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie still providing the foundation for the group’s sound, this version of Fleetwood Mac is every bit as explosive as it was in its early days. Everything about this live performance of the album closer to the group’s 1975 self-titled album is louder and more intense than the original, especially Lindsey Buckingham’s vocals, John McVie’s growling bass, and Christine McVie’s droning organ. It’s all topped off with an achingly beautiful Buckingham guitar solo.

3. “Miles Away,” The Midnight Special (aired November 2, 1973)

This version of the Mystery to Me standout chugs along smoothly on top of John McVie’s percolating bass and Fleetwood’s train beat. Bob Weston lays down a pair of tasty guitar solos, and Christine McVie eschews her keyboard to play some propulsive maracas and harmonize beautifully with Bob Welch. It’s a splendid version of a great song from the Welch era. 

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The performance was recorded just before the group temporarily disbanded, as a result of Fleetwood discovering that Weston had an affair with his wife, Jenny Boyd. While the band was broken up, manager Clifford Davis created a replacement band, “The New Fleetwood Mac,” to play the remaining dates on the Mystery to Me Tour. The real Fleetwood Mac, minus Weston, reformed to make Heroes Are Hard to Find the following year, but Welch’s days with the band were also numbered. While no one could have foreseen it at the time, the seeds for the highly successful Buckingham-Nicks version of the band were planted shortly after their inaugural Midnight Special performance.

2. “The Chain,” Warner Brothers Studios, Burbank, California (May 23, 1997)

This rendition of “The Chain” has everything you love about the Rumours version: Lindsey Buckingham’s impassioned vocals and guitar playing, the gorgeous harmonies, and the infectious bass line. Yet it all sounds fiercer and bigger, because…well…it’s live. It’s a great-sounding recording to boot.

This version comes from Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 live album, The Dance, which was recorded for an MTV special. The performance occurred just two months after the classic Fleetwood Mac-to-Tango in the Night version of the band reunited. The reunion wouldn’t last long, as Christine McVie would depart in 1998.

1. “Rhiannon” Wembley Arena, London (June 26, 1980)

This nearly eight-minute version of the Fleetwood Mac hit was captured on the band’s Live album. It has the same mystical quality as the original, but with a slightly harder edge due to Mick Fleetwood’s animated drumming. It’s also more dynamic, with Nicks singing softly and Christine McVie playing her keyboard quietly during the bridge (i.e., the “taken by the sky” section), which then gives way to a blistering Buckingham guitar solo.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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