MANSFIELD, MASS. — Twenty years ago when most kids were learning how to get to "Sesame Street," Don Plante was going his own way with Fleetwood Mac.
"I've been a fan since I was six years old," says the Boston resident, whose first album ever was the band's megaselling "Rumours."
For "Mac" fans like Mr. Plante, 1997 is a year to remember. Not only is it the 20th anniversary of "Rumours," but the disbanded group resurfaced in August with a concert on MTV and a derivative live album, "The Dance" (Reprise), which has quickly settled near the top of the charts.
"It's very, very exciting," says Plante, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the group and is the proud owner of a Fleetwood Mac belt buckle he bought on the Internet.
Until now, only a presidential request could reunite the band's most successful lineup - Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. They last worked together as a group at first fan Bill Clinton's 1993 inaugural ball, where they performed the campaign theme "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)."
But anniversaries - two decades since "Rumours," 30 years since the band's founding - and good results from studio collaborations led to reunion '97, which includes a 43-city tour that kicked off last month.
Fleetwood Mac joins other '70s bands, such as the Eagles, that have ridden the nostalgia wave out of retirement in recent years. But their performances of late underscore that the group has reason to be back: They sound good, they look good, and they can give a concert worth top-dollar tickets.
It doesn't hurt, either, that the band has an endless list of songs that everybody knows by heart. Many of them are found on "The Dance," which can stand in as a greatest-hits album in any music collection. Along with songs from "Rumours" and other albums, it has four new offerings that Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie - who all have solo careers - each brought to the table.
Although best known for its pop hits, Fleetwood Mac began as a blues-influenced British band in 1967 with members including drummer Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.
It reached superstardom a decade later after keyboardist Christine Perfect (later McVie's wife) and American musical duo and sweethearts guitarist Buckingham and vocalist Nicks had replaced departing members in the early '70s. After "Rumours" was released in 1977, it was No. 1 for 31 weeks on the American charts and won a Grammy. Before Michael Jackson came along with "Thriller," it was the bestselling album ever (it's now No. 3).
But success belied personal problems the band had during the making of the album (witness the lyrics). The post-breakup tension influenced their musicmaking, and by 1990 Buckingham and Nicks had left.
Buckingham says they have grown up since then. He recently told MTV News that having two couples in the group provided "a lot of baggage, which was part of what ... made the music interesting. Now ... the chemistry is still there, but the baggage is not."
His point is punctuated by a rousing new tour. A concert setting is really the best way to take in the talent contained in this band: Buckingham's captivating guitar work, Nicks's unique, raspy vocals, Christine McVie's soothing ones, the quirky musicianship of Fleetwood, and John McVie's subtle, solid playing.
They performed for 2-1/2 hours recently at Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts near Boston, the second stop on the tour. They easily rolled through oldies like "The Chain," "Go Your Own Way," "Rhiannon," and "Silver Springs," which has gained new life thanks to its inclusion on "The Dance." Sprinkled in were new ditties, including Nicks's "Sweet Girl" and Christine McVie's "Temporary One."
"Stand Back," a rocking classic from Nicks's solo work, was riveting. Another treat was the encore tune "Farmer's Daughter," written by Beach Boy Brian Wilson for the Mac in the '70s.
If the group has plans for the future, they aren't saying much. Nicks and Buckingham have solo albums in the works. And new artists are drawing from the group: The Smashing Pumpkins have done a cover of "Landslide," and, in an interesting diva collaboration, Courtney Love is contributing material to Nicks's forthcoming album.
* For information on tour dates, see www.repriserec.com /fleetwoodmac/ or check out web2.airmail.net/jkinney/main.htm - a Stevie Nicks site with extensive coverage of the band.