A highly acclaimed Fleetwood Mac tribute band plays at Shaftesbury Arts Centre this weekend.
ThisIsAlfred spoke with Lisa Oliver of ‘Fleetwood Mac Songbook’ about the special challenges of performing as somebody else. And, as Keri Jones heard, Lisa’s group has received some flattering praise from Fleetwood Mac fans.
Lisa Oliver had just finished a gig in Cornwall last year when a member of the audience told her that her group was better at performing Fleetwood Mac hits than the original artists. It’s praise that Lisa hasn’t forgotten. It meant a lot for her to hear that. She is a long time fan of the band and also an accomplished tribute artist.
Lisa is experienced in accurately impersonating pop stars. For years she ‘wowed’ audiences with her Kate Bush tribute show. Lisa first had the idea for ‘Fleetwood Mac Songbook’ while on holiday, in September 2017. It seems a natural progression for a woman who is such a fan of the group.
“I named my daughter after Stevie Nicks,” she laughed, and, fittingly, Lisa performs Stevie’s role in her tribute group. It’s one thing being a fan, but it’s quite different performing those songs day in, day out. Lisa admits that she did get ‘a bit fed up’ with Kate Bush songs and she’s only recently been able to listen to that artist’s music again.
She’s still hooked on Fleetwood Mac. “Having a love of the band that you are ‘tributing’ adds a different dimension to it. When you are going to do a tribute to somebody, then the love has to be there. You can’t just do it for monetary reasons. You have to want to perform the music for people who enjoy it as much as you,” Lisa said.
Stevie Nicks has a distinctive vocal style. Some of her more harsh critics say that she mumbles. “You do have to put that on a little bit,” says Lisa. “I wouldn’t say I sing like her naturally but I am stepping into her shoes. I won’t go as far as saying that I ‘become her’ but you know that you have to put that across vocally, just as much as the musicians are doing with their instruments,” Lisa said.
“I knew a long time ago that I could replicate her voice to a point. But when the band formed, it became a bit more involved than me just wandering around the house singing along,” said Lisa. “We still rehearse every week, even after 18 months of performing together. It’s twice a week when have a gig coming up. The three-part vocal harmonies of Fleetwood Mac are very specific and we have all had to work really hard together in vocal rehearsals in addition to the band rehearsals.”
Lisa was told that she sounded like Stevie Nicks by other musicians whose opinion she trusted. She’s fine-tuned her performance and her fellow band members also strive for authenticity. “Our drummer uses the same kit as Mick Fleetwood. Our guitarist uses a Rick Turner guitar, the same as Lindsey Buckingham. We are dedicated to getting the detail right,” Lisa said. It’s clearly being noticed.
Lisa has also had to consider the pitfalls of being a tribute band performer when, for instance, a member of the group that you are performing as makes the headlines for the wrong reason. “They got rid of Lindsey Buckingham last year,” said Lisa. Our chat moved onto the challenges faced by Michael Jackson tribute acts currently, in the light of the recent documentary about the singer. “Actually, their phones are ringing off the hook,” said Lisa. “It’s a bit weird isn’t it?”
Fleetwood Mac Songbook do what their name suggests – everything from the supergroup. Their set list music goes back to the 1960s and spans the band’s 52-year career. Lisa has some favourites to perform. “‘Don’t Stop’ has got such a lovely message of hope to it. It’s a joyful song and that’s what we end the show with,” said Lisa. “‘Go Your Own Way’ is actually quite a bitter song that was written about Lindsey Buckingham’s split with Stevie. I think she got over it and she ended up joining in with him on the song in later years, which she didn’t do before. It’s quite scathing towards her but it’s wrapped up in this lovely sing-along façade and everybody loves that one too.”
“But they also love the more dramatic songs like ‘Gold Dust Woman’. It gets a bit intense,” continued Lisa. “I also love the tracks from ‘Tango In The Night’ which were massive hits in the UK. The album seemed to be around for years in the ‘80s. We get a really good response to tracks like ‘Everywhere’, and ‘Little Lies’. They are now used in adverts a lot.”
Lisa says she is looking forward to this Saturday’s gig at the Shaftesbury Arts Centre. “I love art centres and smaller theatres. It’s great to see people dancing and singing along but a lot of Fleetwood Mac songs are quite emotional ballads. You need people to be sitting and listening to those.”
Lisa says there are just thirty tickets left for this weekend’s concert and they are selling fast. “I check them every day,” she laughs. Fleetwood Mac Songbook perform on Saturday 16th March at 7.30pm at Shaftesbury Arts Centre. Tickets are £16.