Rumours: note for note but deeper - Drew Rowsome - 416 Scene - MyGayToronto
Rumours: note for note but deeper 09 February 2018 - Photography by Tim Leyes
And if you don't love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain
Rumours, the album, is part of the soundtrack of most people's life. I doubt there is anyone who is not familiar with the majority of the songs on the album, and I'm positive that there isn't anyone who isn't intimately familiar with all of the many hits. The story, the mythology, of the creation of Rumours is part of pop music folklore: much of the delicious tension embedded in the album is because never has so much cocaine, anger and sexual tension produced music that is as smooth as chilled white wine.
Rumours, the production produced at Coal Mine Theatre, plays with the instant nostalgia and the bitter backstory while pretending that it is simply a recreation of a beloved album. It is a comfortably bizarre and highly successful hybrid of wax museum, musical prowess and theatre. But it makes it a difficult thing to explain or describe, everyone's experience will be different depending on their relationship to the album Rumours and to life and love itself.
The Coal Mine Theatre is an intimate venue and the audience is close not only to the stage but to each other. The soccer mom and her obedient husband were, drinks in hand, ready to rock and relive some pivotal moment in their past. The theatre snob across the aisle was struggling to maintain his cynicism. The music producer a few rows ahead was schmoozing relentlessly, and the producer (Ted Dykstra billed as "Concept/Facilitator") of Rumours, sitting right behind me, was a bundle of toe-tapping glee that this pet project, this deceptive audacious idea, was working so well.
In my context: I was given a copy of Rumours about a year after it came out. Being an aspiring rocker and nascent punk, Fleetwood Mac were lumped in with the other southern California bands that were far blander than what were then the contemporary idols in my limited musical world. But it was impossible to deny the craftsmanship, skill and sheer hookiness of Rumours. It was irresistible. And when I first heard the insistent beat, chord changes and indelible vocals of "Dreams," I became a lifelong Stevie Nicks fan, surrendering to her weird mixture of camp, flakiness, charisma and rawness. I still remember clearly how the eight track in my father's second hand truck would switch tracks mid-"Dreams" chorus. And I still believe that that is the reason that eight tracks failed as a primary music delivery system.
Emotions place a lot of weight to put on what is billed as just a presentation of a favourite album. On a musical level it is a recreation, almost note for note. The rhythm section, Jen Benton on bass and Steven Foster on drums, is rock solid, as tight and sweet as the recording. Keyboardist Derek Giberson fills in all the holes and cuts loose while remaining note perfect accurate on a piano solo. Mark Borkosky nails every guitar solo and all the strained nuances of Lindsay Buckingham's unique vocal style.
The female singers of course have the most treacherous job: Nicks has an utterly distinct voice and Christine McVie is butter smooth and pitch perfect, with all the nuances buried under the tone. Wisely the duties are divided up and both Andrea Romolo and Sate are powerhouse singers. They blend into Rumours's shimmering sonics with only the occasional bursts of distracting melisma but the definite sense that they are longing to break free and revel in just what there own voices can do. The sound is impeccable, Roger Psutka is the hero at the soundboard, raising levels, blending tones, so that, and this is in a tiny space, each moment that needs to be heard, is.
Because it is presented as a concert there are some intrusive exhortations to sing along and unnecessary attempts to pump up the crowd. Departures from the album certainly, but I guess deamanded in this context. The audience certainly appreciated it and sang lustily. If there had of been space, I'm sure there would have been a lot of "look at me" interpretive dance. But I'm sorry, asking for a sing-a-long to "Dreams" is sacrilege.
On a non-concert level, considering Rumours as a piece of theatre, there are intriguing undertones culled right from the already-pointed songs. The setting, the clear sound and concert presentation, force the audience to focus on the lyrics. And the lyrics are a story. Again wisely, the songs are not re-interpreted or given cabaret style reinvention, they are just the lyrics as they appear on the album. What comes through is the agonizing futile attempts of Buckingham/Borkosky to match the women's star power with sheer force of will. That the attempt is made through guitar solos, the most traditionally phallic of all instruments, makes the triumph of the feminine all the more contemporary.
And through the entire performance, there is a sense of camaraderie that flows between the performers. They are trying to believe in the upbeat lyrics and smother the acidic ones with beauty. Love, and particularly love lost, is universal and carefully coating it in earworms and ear candy makes it palatable but no less painful. Nostalgia goes a long way to turning all memories into idylls which makes the final choice of "Landslide" an aptly odd one. As the refrain repeats, the melancholy grows and the theatrical aspect of this Rumours snaps into focus. We remember the album fondly, we sing along when we hear it on the radio (and I'm sure almost everyone who attends will dig out their copy for several spins, I did) but it belongs to another time in our lives, a time we are invited to peruse and make peace with. Something that is easier to achieve with those who went through it with you or in a communal theatrical/concert space.
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, I'm getting older too
Rumours continues until Sun, Feb 25 at the Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth Ave. coalminetheatre.com