For the past 15 years, seeing Fleetwood Mac live has been something like sitting on a chair with a leg missing. Pianist and singer Christine McVie, who joined the group long before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham did, spent those years in self-imposed exile as the Mac carried on without her. The group never exactly tottered, but it sorely missed her stabilizing presence, and the remaining members made it clear that they wanted her back badly. Now she is — she officially rejoined the band in January —and that makes Saturday’s show at the Prudential Center in Newark something more than just another arena concert from a legendary pop-rock group. Expect the Mac, which has always foregrounded the personal stories of its songwriters, to make as much as it can from the reunion, and to fix the spotlight on an old friend who has come home after a long time out in the cold. McVie brings with her some of the band’s best material — hits like “Say You Love Me” and “You Make Loving Fun” — but also excellent album cuts that provided a serene pop-blues counterpoint to Nicks’ mysticism and Buckingham’s freneticism. It’s a testament to the depth of the Fleetwood Mac discography that the band has been able to fashion two-hour concert setlists mainly from Buckingham and Nicks material. But “Don’t Stop,” which McVie wrote, never sounded right without her, and without her guiding hand, “World Turning” often degenerated into an exercise in guitar heroism. Her electric piano parts, too, only sound simple until somebody tries to replicate them. I’m glad they finally put the chain back together, and although last year’s Newark concert was an enjoyable experience, I consider this the first true Fleetwood Mac show in our area since the Dance Tour in 1997.
Another legendary act had a concert scheduled for the same night. Alas, B.B. King, who is one year shy of 90, scrapped his date at Montclair’s Wellmont Theater (and his other tour dates, too) after falling onstage. If he’d been able to make the trip, he would have been the dean of a delegation of all-time rock greats in action in the Garden State on Saturday night. Joan Jett is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but she’s been such a steady presence on the list of high-profile snubs that I’d wager most of her audience already thinks she’s been enshrined. Jett was actually at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Barclays Center this spring — she fronted Nirvana, and did so convincingly. The Blackhearts come to the Count Basie Theatre to celebrate the sixth anniversary of “Anything Anything,” the free-form radio show hosted by Jersey deejay Rich Russo. “Anything Anything” has always supported Jett, and in Red Bank, she’ll be returning the favor. Last year’s “Anything Anything” anniversary was about as eclectic as a free-form playlist: electropop duo Tegan & Sara headlined at Starland Ballroom, and Willie Nile, a six-string strummer from a prior generation, warmed up the crowd. This year’s party is less whiplash-inducing: Shore favorite Jesse Malin, a regular performer at Light of Day events and a veteran Downtown punk rocker who has surely nicked a riff or two from the Blackhearts, opens the show.
Remarkably, it’s been almost 20 years since the release of Hello Bastards, the album that made Lifetime an inescapable fact for everybody grappling with Garden State rock. Two years later, the quintet set the template for super-fast, catchy, delirious, emotional pop-punk with Jersey’s Best Dancers, a record that would be copied by countless aspirants. Lifetime then disbanded, reformed in the mid-’00s, and put out another album of minute-and-a-half rubber-burners on a big label. Yet as influential as it is, this band is still not that well-known. If you like the first few Gaslight Anthem sets but don’t know Lifetime, get thee to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Saturday to educate yourself and (probably) dance around like a maniac in the process. Lemuria, an excellent, if somewhat more cautious, punk-rock band from Buffalo, opens the show.
There’s a new single available for download on the Adam and the Plants website, and it’s a good one. “Texas”, the latest from the ever-sharp songwriter Adam N. Copeland, is a showcase for his storytelling and scene-setting, and it’s set to guitar accompaniment that feels reminiscent of Good Earth-era Feelies. It’s a cinch that the band will perform the new song — and its old ones, too — at the Old Canal Inn in Nutley on Thursday night. It’s a free show, but the group will be collecting donations for Rock for Autism and Special Dragons. The Old Canal Inn is right on the Bloomfield border, and only a few blocks from Exit 150 on the Garden State Parkway. Let’s hope the tavern makes a habit of booking adventurous rock bands — New Jersey can use a few more rooms willing to accommodate bands like this one.