Dreams Show

Originally published in THE TAGG, 14 December 2023

AUTHOR:  Cascadacia Simmons. Text as supplied by Author with no editorial changes or input. 

DATE:        9 December, 2023

Preamble: It’s Friday 8 December 2023 and I’m at the sold-out show of the first and only Melbourne performance of the Gold Coast based Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks Tribute Band, ‘Dreams’. Although I bought my ticket in August, I only managed to snag a ‘Standing Room’ ticket as every table seat had already disappeared. I find myself propped against the balcony, beside the projector. Next to me is a table populated by the bass player’s brother and guitarist’s cousin, excited to see their family members bring the music of Fleetwood Mac to life. (One of their party kindly lets me be her Oscars-style ‘Seat Filler’ while she dances through the second set, for which I’m beyond grateful.)

Even at a Fleetwood Mac tribute show, it’s surprising how few Super Fans are in the audience who know most of the song lyrics and basic trivia about the original band and Stevie Nick’s solo career. I’d consider myself a Mac Fan who falls just short of obsession. I saw Fleetwood Mac perform live during their ‘Behind the Mask’ tour in Melbourne in 1990. ‘Dreams’ is the fifth Fleetwood Mac tribute band I’ve seen perform this year.

Amongst the myriad of Mac cover and tribute bands currently touring Australia, I doubt any could come close to ‘Dreams’ superior show. 

There’s a distinct difference between ‘covers bands’ and ‘tribute bands’. A tribute band goes beyond just playing the tunes of the band they’re dedicated to. While some offer schmaltzy impersonations punctuated by ‘Did you know …’ band trivia treats, the most successful tributes commit to doing real justice to the ‘whole package’ of the music they’re recreating. They channel the ‘vibe’ of the band as a whole while individually embodying the most distinctive features of key band members. Very few go a step further, offering a level of performance that wins them the admiration of the audience not just as a tribute, but as a rock-solid band in their own right. ‘Dreams’ achieves this easily, and absolutely. 

______

Emulating (as virtually all current Fleetwood Mac tribute bands do) the band’s most iconic lineup featuring Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, so too is ‘Dreams’ masterfully fronted by the band’s founder and musical director, vocalist and exceptional lead-guitarist, Wayne Daniels. Beside him at centre stage is relative newcomer to the line-up, American vocalist Nikki Canale, compelling in her physical and vocal resemblance to Stevie (Nikki and Nicks – the Stars have aligned).

With due respect, Nikki’s presence, energy, powerful vocal chops and capacity to channel the ‘Spirit of Stevie’ is unparalleled in the world of ‘Tribute Stevies’ touring Australia and beyond. This is in no small part due to her decade of professional performance in Vegas. 

In every other Mac tribute I’ve seen this year, there’s been a ‘weak link’ in the line-up in terms of musicianship. Not so with ‘Dreams’. Every member of the band is a solid player who holds their own. Matt Skea in the role of Mick Fleetwood and Regotron Leayr performing John McVie’s role, provide a rock solid and relatively unassuming backline of bass and drums. Both add solos and vocals where needed. Of all the tributes I’ve seen, Krissy Linehan is the only Christine (also ‘Chrissy’) McVie’ who comes closes to reincarnating the understated performance and mellifluous stylings of the band’s late keyboard player and vocalist.

The superior musicianship of every player is just one element that elevates ‘Dreams’ to a class of its own. While the vocal mix takes a couple of songs to increase to the right level (and the tempo of ‘Second Hand News’ is arguably a bit faster than comfortable to perform or listen to), there’s not a single note out of place for the entire night’s performance, comprised of two generous sets, divided by intermission.

The costuming is impeccable, from the drummer’s nod to Mick Fleetwood’s ‘wooden toilet balls’ and red cravat to the keyboard player’s elegant, shimmery pantsuits and guitar player’s sparkling trousers and gold lion adorned boots. Every detail weaves another thread into the sophisticated tapestry of authentic homage.

As per Stevie’s endless wardrobe changes during full length Fleetwood Mac Performances in the 80s and 90s, Nikki exits stage left between most songs to don new shawls, top hats and other quintessentially Nicks-ish accessories. Most spectacular is the astonishing costume for Edge of Seventeen, transforming Nikky into a luminous and larger than life ‘white winged dove’ with wings that fill almost half the stage (at one point narrowly missing the guitarist during one of many wide wingspanned twirls).

Most of the ‘Stevie Nicks Tributes’ I’ve seen have failed dismally in the twirling department. The ‘Dreams’ audience get their money’s worth of unapologetically energetic twirling, including a recreation of Stevie’s baton twirling in ‘Tusk’. Unlike the trancey-abandon of Stevie Nicks’ notoriously substance-fuelled twirling on stage, Nikki never twirls off into a world of her own, always smiling widely and maintaining eye contact with the audience.

And there’s no attempt to recreate the legendary tensions of Buckingham and Nicks during the tumultuous ‘Silver Springs’, ‘Go Your Own Way’ and other Conflicted Ex-Lover Squabble Anthems, as some audience members might yearn to see emerge from the performances. ‘Dreams’ (the band, not the song) offers authentic homage rather than disingenuous imitation. Ultimately this elevates their performance well beyond that of a standard covers or solid tribute band. They are genuinely capable of connecting with the music and the audience in their ‘own way,’ in their own right.

Like most Fleetwood Mac covers and tribute acts, the performance contains educative elements, inevitably paying homage to the band’s founder Peter Green with ‘Oh Well’, and often explaining the context of how certain songs were written. In particular, the well-worn origins of ‘Dreams’ and ‘Landslide’ are rehashed. Expanding the setlist to focus on several songs from Stevie Nick’s solo career provides the band’s only significant misstep on the night, omitting the non-negotiable ‘Gold Dust Woman’ (featured on their website showreel) in preference for John Stewart’s ‘Gold’, where Stevie was essentially a backing vocalist. (Had the rest of ‘Dream’s performance not been so dazzling, this setlist choice might be deemed unforgivable.)

Several elements of song delivery are nuanced to demonstrate the notion of musical influence. Where songs like Stevie’s single ‘Stand Back’ have been inspired by the likes of Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’, the muse song is infused for a few bars to highlight the sonic cross-fertilisation.

This is just one of several points of musical inter-textuality purposefully integrated throughout the performance. Brief strains of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ also make unpredictable, judicious and satisfying appearances. Such snippets reinforce the notion of how Fleetwood Mac, Solo Stevie and indeed all music writers draw their musical influences into their creative process. They also confirm that the performance of ‘Dreams’ (the band) is not purely imitative and derivative, but genuinely perceptive and creative.

There are also humorous elements to the performance, with a few esoteric subtleties to reward keen-eyed-and-eared Fleetwood Mac SuperFans. Drummer Matt Skea is recruited from the start of the show to help deliver some low-hanging laughs. His comedic role is amplified visually and sonically during his idiosyncratic centre stage ‘body percussion’ performance, emulating Mick Fleetwood’s over-the-top (typically coked-to-the-eyeballs) antics. Presumably sans-stimulants, Skea’s rendition offers a short, silly and kinda sweet homage to Fleetwood’s regular non-traditional percussive solo (alongside a crowd-pleasing traditional drum solo elsewhere in the show).

Similarly, Canale’s somewhat lengthy, waffly repartee and segue declaring that ‘Australia should be declared as ‘one of the Seven Wonders of the World’, may or may not have intentionally emulated Nick’s propensity for the kind of long-winded speeches that once caused Lindsey Buckingham to ‘smirk’ and consequently lose his position in the Fleetwood Mac lineup for all eternity. Canale’s echoes of Nick’s sardonic post-performance comments about ‘Silver Springs’ as ‘a great old song’ and Linehan’s allusions to the concert as a ‘soiree’ (a’la Christine McVie’s standard turn of phrase) offer some subtlety to the infusion of the broader canon of Fleetwood Mac lore.

One final note, regarding the video projections which all Fleetwood Mac tribute and covers bands incorporate into their performances. This big screen at the rear of the stage features images and footage of the iconic band coupled with ‘Dreams’ original visual material. (Canale with her flowing black dress and top hat manages to completely supplant Nicks in the visual projections for ‘Rhiannon’, almost without detection). At every moment, the videos are complementary and secondary to the band’s performance. While the projection has been carefully constructed for infusion throughout the entire performance, at no point does it become a distraction. Nor is it ever preferable to watch the projection screen instead of the live tribute band, as is the case with some other Mac tribute bands where the videos of the original band serve to compensate for lack of authenticity on stage. At the ‘Dreams’ Show, primary focus remains on the performers live on stage who deserve the fullest attention and respect.

The dynamic stage lighting is also par excellence, contributing to the sense that ‘Dreams’ could command a stadium as easily as it does a more intimate music venue. Every element of band’s performance is carefully crafted and perfectly balanced to optimise audience enjoyment and participation. ‘Dreams’ caters expertly to casual listeners able to join in on little more than radio-recognisable chorus catchlines, right through to hard-core fans howling the lyrics of every line.

It’s no wonder that ‘Dreams’ tours extensively, with most shows selling out many months in advance. ‘Dreams’ is not only the closest that music lovers are ever likely to get to the iconic band again, but they are an outstanding group of world-class musicians and performers in their own right, one of the most proficient and engaging tribute bands to grace Australian stages.

Check them out at: dreamsshow.com.au

***

CLICK HERE FOR TOUR DATES