Go Your Own Way, the Story of Christine McVie

Slide Lounge, June 27.

TOMORROW – June 29 – Fleetwood Mac will be performing in Spokane, Washington, as part of its 2013 Live tour, a huge international event lasting eight months. Singer-songwriter Christine McVie won’t be there, just as she won’t be in Australia when the band spends the best part of a month here from November 10. It’s been 15 years since she stood on a stage with Fleetwood Mac and since then she’s done a little solo work and, apparently, been enjoying the quiet life in England. People call her reclusive.

Catherine Alcorn in Go Your Own Way. Photo: Jo-Anna Robinson

Catherine Alcorn in Go Your Own Way. Photo: Jo-Anna Robinson

Late last year her former bandmate Lindsay Buckingham told CBS: “She ended up getting a divorce, she moved back to England, she quit the band, she sold her publishing. She didn’t have to burn as many bridges as she did. Everyone sometimes wonders whether or not there might have been more of a middle ground for her to strike – not necessarily in terms of her staying in Fleetwood Mac.

“But she just wanted to reinvent herself. She seems to want to lead the antithesis of the life she led before. I don’t pretend to understand such a radical change – but it was obviously something she needed.”

And from Stevie Nicks, this to Rolling Stone on the subject of a potential reunion: “There’s no more a chance of that happening than an asteroid hitting the earth. She is done. You know when you look in somebody’s face and you can just tell? She doesn’t want to do it any more.”

Hunt around, and you won’t find much of McVie talking about this or anything else. Which means Catherine Alcorn has set herself a challenge in Go Your Own Way. The full subtitle gives a hint: The story of Christine McVie, the other woman in Fleetwood Mac. Yep. She’s the one who wasn’t Stevie Nicks.

Go Your Own Way is therefore in many ways beset by negatives. McVie not doing this or that; not making herself visible for the past 15 years; and when she was in Fleetwood Mac, not being the mesmerising, extravagant, emotional, shawl-trailing show-woman that is Nicks. Oh, and she failed to respond to Alcorn’s approaches about the show. I gather there was a big silence there.

So writer Diana Simmonds, who was brought very late in to the project, was on a hiding to nothing I reckon. This is not a narrative overflowing with juicy personal detail. As Fleetwood Mac fans will know, the band members had tumultuous personal relationships and these are duly recounted. But the show is presented as McVie looking back on her life, which means there’s a certain decorum to the telling. There’s a swear word or two, sure, but Alcorn can’t play McVie as a rock’n’roll tearaway. She’s not. She’s a talented, private woman recalling another life. Near the end of the show, back-up singer Tamika Stanton has a short but strong moment as Stevie Nicks, which suggests that it’s worth exploring the flavour boost the narrative could get if McVie were seen more through the lens of others.

If the connective tissue of Go Your Own Way is generally low-key, there are three other elements to get the temperature rising: McVie songs, a tight and terrific band under the direction of the extremely young, extremely impressive Isaac Hayward, and Alcorn’s exceptional performance of the music. I was never a great fan of McVie’s voice, which had blues style but a reedy quality that could tend to astringency. Alcorn has a completely different sound. It is full-bodied, warm and flexible, and Alcorn works melody, phrasing and dynamics to suit those qualities. She personalises McVie’s songs with surges of voluptuous power and ethereal floated notes and has impeccable intonation too – quite the package really.

The song list is a knockout, particularly for listeners of a certain age. Everything you’d expect to hear is there and rocking with the participation of terrific Tamika Stanton, Marty Hailey on guitar, Nick Cecire on drums and MD Hayward on keyboard and backing vocals: The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, Little Lies, Songbird, Everywhere, Oh Daddy, Don’t Stop and, of course, Go Your Own Way. All there. The primitive, relentless beat of Tusk provides a clever frame for stories of band success and excess. It’s the highpoint of the show as a piece of theatre.

I recently had a long conversation with Alcorn in which we talked about the difficulties cabaret faces in Australia (to read it go to the People & Ideas category in the listing of posts on my home page). There are so few extended opportunities to hone a show. For instance, Alcorn premiered Go Your Own Way at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and is at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival with it tonight, having also performed there last night. That’s it for now, and it’s just one and two-night stands. True, Alcorn’s earlier show The Divine Miss Bette will be seen at Sydney’s Glen St Theatre from July 23-28 and had a Perth season earlier in the year, but this is hard graft for small handfuls of performances. I salute Alcorn’s tenacity as well as her talent.

Footnote: Although McVie has steadfastly declined to appear with Fleetwood Mac over the past decade and a half, she may be weakening. There are three Mac concerts at London’s O2 Arena in September and McVie told a UK publication, Metro, the following: “If they wanted me to, I might pop back on stage when they’re in London just to do a little duet or something like that.” I suspect the band might just want such a thing. Now that would make an uplifting new ending for Go Your Own Way.

Go Your Own Way, tonight (June 28), The Butterfly Club, Melbourne Cabaret Festival.

Disclosure: Diana Simmonds and I are both members of the judging panel for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

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