By Steve Newton
Mick Fleetwood is best known as the drummer for one of history’s most popular recording acts, Fleetwood Mac. But eight years before that band became the multiplatinum voice of mid-’70s pop, it was a gritty blues-rock outfit led by a stunning guitarist by the name of Peter Green.
So when Fleetwood calls from a tour bus near the tail end of a 16-hour trek from Telluride, Colorado, to San Diego, California, I’ve gotta ask him if—as much as he may have enjoyed selling millions of albums with Stevie Nicks and Co.—his current Mick Fleetwood Blues Band is what brings him the most satisfaction as a musician.
“Uh, I wouldn’t say that,” replies the 69-year-old skinbasher, who plays Vancouver’s Molson Canadian Theatre at Hard Rock tonight. “I think there’s more freedom, just the whole way we approach what we’re doing. But having said that, you know, once you’re in the saddle, it’s about the same ethics of musical commitment, hopefully, to the evening. And at that point, playing is playing.
“Neither’s better or worse,” he continues, “it’s just different. But if you really pinned me down, I’d say I’m probably more expressive, for sure, playing out here with Rick and the boys.”
The Rick he refers to is singer-guitarist Rick Vito, and the boys are bassist Lenny Castellanos and keyboardist Mark Johnstone. Vito is a veteran sideman and studio ace whose credits include John Fogerty, Albert Collins, John Mayall, Jackson Browne, and Bob Seger. (That’s his widely heard slide guitar on the Seger hit/Chevy truck ad “Like a Rock”.) Vito’s role in the MFBB has him singing and playing on a number of old Fleetwood Mac blues tunes written by Peter Green—including gems like “Black Magic Woman”, “Oh Well”, and “Rattlesnake Shake”—but Fleetwood doesn’t really see the quartet’s current tour as a tribute to Green.
“I don’t look at it like that,” he says. “This band has always played bits and pieces of the original band, not only because that would be my request to be doing that, but it becomes relevant that I’m connecting to an audience through the songs that I used to play. Rick is a huge advocate and admirer of Peter Green in any case, but having said how much he likes Peter Green, he’s very formed as a player himself. He’s very much his own stylist, but he loved what Peter used to do, so he was the perfect fit.”
As well as the Green-penned classics, the band’s current set list includes some Vito originals and the odd blues standard. But when it comes to the choice of encore, it’s all about that “Greenie” vibe, via Fleetwood Mac’s dreamy 1968 instrumental—and surprising U.K. hit—“Albatross”.
“Rick plays it beautifully,” notes Fleetwood. “I don’t know how he does it, but he plays both parts, he does the harmony and the melody, answering each other. So we invariably do end our crazy evening with this very ethereal, haunting song.”