Anyone who has heard the studio cut of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” will know it is a) awesome and b) a soft-rock masterpiece. Lindsey Buckingham took Stevie Nicks’ basic piano demo and crafted it into a reasonably spooky yet effortlessly California-cool radio staple of the mid-’70s, backed by the indestructible rhythm section of John McVie and Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie’s crystalline harmonies and electric piano flourishes.
But it’s the incendiary live version where the band got really expansive and, well, rocked out. Just listen to Lindsey’s guitar, to McVie’s steady bass, to Mick Fleetwood’s drums that rise and fall in intensity as he follows the melody. And listen (and watch) especially for Stevie Nicks’ transformation into a screaming, shouting, suitably witchy rock goddess as the “dreams unwind” improvisation gathers pace. It was Stevie’s money number, a performance that put her up there with (and beyond, one might say) the Janis Joplins and Grace Slicks she wanted to emulate. So powerful and beloved was this performance that this version of “Rhiannon” remained the song’s live incarnation for the band’s next three tours.
It’s not hard to see / hear why.