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An influx of leather and lace hit Gisborne over the weekend. Or should I say a Landslide? Venturing here for the second time, the quintet of Andrea Clarke, Lee Cooper, Taine Ngatai, Gareth Scott and Garin Keane played on Friday and Saturday night to a sold-out crowd at The Dome Bar and Cinema.

The Dome’s velvet-clad cinema room was the perfect venue for an evening of magic melodies and fond nostalgia. An audience of both young and old stood alongside each other, captivated by an assortment of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks classics such as ‘Little Lies’, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Edge of Seventeen’. There was barely a single stagnant body in the room when Landslide unleashed their encore of ‘The Chain’. Seasoned vocals were bolstered by playful instrumental performances – Gareth Scott’s dynamic drum solo in ‘Tusk’ being a longstanding “crowd favourite” according to Clarke, and the glock of the cowbell gave ‘Gold Dust Woman’ a psychedelic edge.

An accidental tribute band, Landslide begun in 2012 after increasing requests for songs by Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks from Clarke and husband Lee Cooper’s cover band at the time (Retro Vibe). The people were heard – Clarke and Lee put together a band that exclusively played these. “I started looking for more material and found myself falling totally in love with the songs, especially with Stevie [Nick’s] insightful and poetic style of writing” Clarke says. A full-time performer, Clarke has a generous portfolio in musical performance. For her, Fleetwood Mac are a natural fit, allowing her to draw on her background in rock, country and blues. The genre-ambiguity of Fleetwood Mac also makes it more gratifying for the band to perform; the Landslide set list displaying the transformation of music trends over the 70’s & 80’s. In true Fleetwood Mac style, the group has had different members over their 7 years. Clarke and Cooper are the veterans but their group is spiked by energetic new blood and impressive heads of hair. “We have always strived to find suitable players to keep the band fresh and especially love to bring in young, talented musicians as well as seasoned professionals to the mix”. 

With her spirited locks and honeyed voice, it’s lucky she looks and sounds like Stevie Nicks, but Clarke insists she’s just performing as herself. There are no personas, no playing pretend in this band. Just a group of musicians, transparently playing certain songs as best they can. Their songs aren’t supposed to be note-for-note replicas either. As long as the essence of the song is captured and the recognisable parts are all there, the band members have the creative freedom to impart a bit of their own style into the performance. Part of being a tribute band is going the extra mile to create a sense of occasion. Landslide’s stage decoration, violet lighting, the heavy aroma of burning incense, their bohemian costuming right down to the black gloves adorning Clarke’s hands – all these individual touches are all part of taking their audience away. It can be tough being a tribute band for one of the most loved groups of all time. Clarke admits that funnily the most complimentary thing to hear sometimes is that people didn’t hate the show, because fans can be so fiercely loyal to the originals.   

So what is it that makes Fleetwood Mac so popular even today? Not only are they iconic singalongs found on any road trip playlist or karaoke line-up, but Clarke thinks their relatability and sentimental value makes them timeless. “These songs have literally been the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives and are deeply intertwined with memories and experiences that have been significant to them”. It is music shared by old acquaintances of the original songs in the 70’ & 80s, but also by their children. 

For Clarke, a memorable performance is a marriage between the technical aspects coming together and an interactive audience. She has too many favourite songs to list, but notes “the most emotional I have felt on stage is when several hundred people sing the song Landslide with me…that’s an incredible experience”. She and her husband are more inspired by ‘old school music’ but also lists modern artists such as Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran as some of her favourites for their crafted lyrics and vocal ability. This got me thinking about the Starry Eyed and Thinking Out Loud tribute bands that might emerge 50 years from now…  

A lot of administration is involved in orchestrating a tour away from Auckland, Landslide’s home base, but Clarke reckons they’re keen to make the trip East a regular thing.  I’ve started rehearsing in the shower for Landslide’s next show, but until then, you can stay up to date with the group at www.facebook.com/landslideshow

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