Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks didn't just sing to the audience. They sang to each other when Fleetwood Mac launched a 40-date tour here in Ohio with a concert Wednesday at Value City Arena.
Buckingham and Nicks took the stage with their arms around one another.
"We're doing the best work we've ever done, on any number of levels," Buckingham said by phone last month from his hillside home in Bel Air, Calif.
"We've managed to keep the love for each other, too," he said. "I'm talking about all of us, how we all care for each other. The care is more intact now than ever.”
Buckingham parted ways with the band after 1987's "Tango in the Night" album.
"I needed to get some separation from Stevie
"When you break up with someone and then for the next 10 years you have to be around them and do for them and watch them move away from you, it's not easy. . . .
"I don't think we could be doing what we're doing now on an emotional level or on a creative level, had there not been all the time apart.”
"As great as her songs were on recordings, they were not, generally speaking, the strongest things live," Buckingham said. "As much as I respect Christine and her legacy, this is very much in the tradition of Fleetwood Mac remaking itself once again, in a slightly smaller way this time.
"In our hearts of hearts, we were quite intrigued and excited about the possibility of doing something different. Because Christine wasn't there, the musicians had more space to maneuver."
Buckingham, for one, made the most of the opportunity, flexing his guitar muscle throughout "Say You Will." By his reckoning, the result is a more "aggressive" sound.
"I'm a little bit territorial about what we've been able to achieve," he said. "If Christine were to call and say she wants to come back, would we say, 'No, you can't?' I don't know. As much as I love her, I would hope it doesn't happen. I feel like we're onto something very viable. In many ways, it's something Stevie and I have been waiting to do for a long time.”
If Buckingham has his druthers, Fleetwood Mac will return to the studio soon to record another group effort. "I'm not going to jinx anything and say anything is definitely happening," he said.
The cover of "Say You Will" depicts Buckingham and Nicks reclining side by side, although in diametrically opposed positions.
Many of the he said/she said songs seem to be part of an ongoing conversation between the ex-lovers.
They could have titled the album "Guitar-Playing Studio Wizards Are From Mars, Tambourine-Rattling Gypsies Are From Venus."
"Um, well, I mean, uh, well, since you're asking, I would have to say yes, it is," Buckingham replied.
He acknowledged there are "elements of Stevie" in some of his other tunes on "Say You Will." But only one song, "Say Goodbye," deals directly with Nicks. He wrote it shortly after he bid adieu to her and the rest of Fleetwood Mac 16 years ago.
"You could say for me, a lot of being in the band was an exercise in denial," Buckingham said, "where you had to wrap up a whole set of feelings in one little corner of yourself . . . and just get on with what needed to be done - maybe not the most emotionally healthy thing.
"I've known Stevie since I was about 16. After I finally left the band, I was able to look back at all of it in a very tender way and say, 'Hey, look, this is what it is. It's kind of a dream within a dream. We all just did what we had to do.'"
"Say Goodbye" is the penultimate track on the album, which closes with the Nicks tune "Goodbye Baby" In recent interviews, she has made no bones about the fact that some of her songs are about Buckingham.
He sings: "Oh, I let you slip away, there was nothing I could do / That was so long ago, still I often think of you." She sings: "Goodbye, baby, I hope your heart's not broken / Don't forget me / Yes, I was outspoken."
"During the 'Rumours' days, we were writing these dialogues to each other in a much more treacherous way," Buckingham said. "Now we're sort of in the process of cementing a sense of trust. . . . At any given time, either one of us may venture out into showing the truth about a feeling or something toward each other - and then pull it back.
"When the dialogues take place now, they come with a sense of wisdom and sweetness. Maybe a little bittersweetness. But mostly sweetness.”