Music Box: Fleetwood Mac The Chain, US Festival 1982

Fleetwood Mac with Steve Wozniak (l) and Bill Graham (r) at US Festival 1982

On Labor Day weekend in 1982, the very first US Festival was held at the Glen Helen Regional Park near Devore, San Bernadino California. The concert event was created by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and legendary music promoter, the late Bill Graham. It was coined “The Woodstock of the 80s” and with the world on the cusp of the technological revolution, the concerts were to bring both the music and tech worlds together. The festival ran for three days in September, and it assembled some of the biggest – and best – names in rock n roll. Many of those who performed still thrive today, some have passed on, and more that a few are in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (there’s even one lady who is the sole woman in the Hall twice!).

There was a recent documentary released called The US Generation: The 1982 US Festival which was a very interesting, if doc-standard, look into the festival’s genesis, and the myriad of problems, obstacles and eventual successes that went into its foundation. (It’s not a musical doc, a la Woodstock, sadly – there are no substantial, full performances of any of the artists.) I’m not sure if it’s streaming yet, but I caught it on AXS TV, and it you can find it, it’s worth the watch. (Of course in this era of YouTube, you can catch many of the performances from both the 1982 and 1983 lineups online.)

The closing act of the 1982 festival, on Sunday, September 5th, was, of course, Fleetwood Mac. The previous night, the band performed a show in Orlando, Florida, and didn’t arrive at San Bernadino until the wee hours of Sunday morning. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Christine McVie said, “We’re getting such a lot of money for this that we couldn’t pass it up. And it’s a good opportunity to do something big on the West Coast.” (The band was paid half a million dollars to perform, which was double what Tom Petty and Pat Benatar were compensated.)

As noted, you can see their set on YouTube, albeit with tinnier sonics; it appears that many of the 1982 concert lineup was marred with sound issues in the recording processes. But it’s nevertheless marvelous to be able to see any rare concert set at all, especially if it’s your favorite band, and those sound anomalies don’t really interfere with the overall joy.

The following footage of “The Chain,” originally from Rumours of course, was recorded to be used later as B-Roll footage. The camera focuses in and out, and lingers on each member, and then pans to the others. The BITC code at the bottom of the screen doesn’t deter from the thrill of the performance and it’s great to see this from an alternate perspective, after we’ve already watched and re-watched this same performance countless times, in various other mediums.

After US, Fleetwood Mac completed their tour at the end of October (this was a shorter tour supporting Mirage). We all know what happened with the band in the following years; the breakups, the disbanding, the drugs, the rehabs, the retirements, the reunions, etc. But the interpersonal history of Fleetwood Mac isn’t the real reason we have stuck with them all these decades; it’s the timelessness of their music. To see them at the US Festival – imperfections and all – is to immerse oneself, even if briefly, into the fractured, brilliant universe of one of the greatest bands in Rock N Roll.

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