Vampire Weekend. Lady Antebellum. Judas Priest. The Lumineers. Best Coast. The Cranberries. MGMT. Dixie Chicks. Smashing Pumpkins. Elton John.
What do all of these artists have in common? Surprisingly enough, the answer is Fleetwood Mac.
And that list is just the tip of the iceberg of musicians who have either covered a Mac tune or professed their admiration for some aspect of the sound of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group that has gone through several incarnations since its inception as a blues band in 1967.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, singer-songwriter-twirler Stevie Nicks, and singer-songwriter-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham — the steady Mac lineup since the 1998 departure of singer-songwriter-keyboardist Christine McVie, who grew weary of touring — come to the Comcast Center on Friday to play endlessly rotated hits like “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Don’t Stop,” as well as a few new songs from their newly released four song EP.
In recent years, the Mac fever seems to have spread especially wide in the worlds of indie rock and contemporary country, with tribute albums like “Just Tell Me That You Want Me” sprouting up and groups like Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum performing Mac songs either on awards shows or on the CMT cross-genre series “Crossroads” with Buckingham and Nicks, respectively.
Mac guitarist Buckingham isn’t exactly sure why the band’s songs — both those written during his tenure and before his time — have weathered the years and continue to appeal to new generations, but he’s certainly glad they have.
“I think that’s hard to be objective about from the inside,” he says on the phone from a Chicago tour stop. “It is weird, this time we’re doing better business now on the road since like ’83. It’s skewing younger, which I like, obviously, since I like listening to younger bands looking for new things. Why is that? Obviously some new generation has kicked in. You’ve got something like Little Big Town but you can go on something like “Alt Nation” on satellite radio and hear strains of things, and I don’t know what it is about it that has legs. But I do know that when you can see that phenomenon occurring generationally, at some point you’re being given the sense that you’ve done your job properly.”
Many of the band’s admirers point to the unique vocal blend of Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie during the band’s most commercially successful period from the mid-’70s to the late ’80s.
“Their harmonies, it’s just like a warm cozy blanket you just wrap yourself in,” says Kimberly Schlapman of country quartet Little Big Town, who make “The Chain” a staple of their concerts.
“I’ve always liked when men and women take turns singing in stuff,” says Bethany Cosentino of the indie-rock group Best Coast, who contribute a jaunty cover of “Rhiannon” to “Just Tell Me That You Want Me.” “I think the blend of voices sounds really cool. But I also distinctly remember just loving Stevie Nicks’s voice.”
The group’s songs are also often not simple affairs to replicate.
“If you can do a Fleetwood Mac song, it’s not too shabby,” says Ken Caillat, who coproduced the band’s classic album “Rumours” and released a book about the sessions in 2012. “I think it’s a challenge, their music is really intense. It’s like playing Augusta [in golf].”
Caillat, whose daughter is pop star Colbie Caillat, also points to the pathos of the songwriting.
“I think it boils down to the fact that these songs were written out of pain and anguish,” he says of the famously fractious era in which the various band members were dating, mating, packing up and shacking up. “The songs became very touching in a kind of a universal way. It works for everybody, it still works for everybody. I’m not a genius about it, but it’s the only thing that makes sense to me.”
And it didn’t hurt, says Caillat, that “we took every piece of music and polished and perfected it as much as possible.”
“In many ways — from their longevity to their songwriting to lyrics and to friendships — I think that almost every aspect of Fleetwood Mac has inspired me in one way or another,” says Cosentino. “I’ve read so many books about them and have seen tons of footage of them recording and performing, and I just fall in love with them more and more every time. I think that what inspires me the most is the honesty in their songs.”
Although Patrick Berkery of the pickup group the Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society — a collection of indie-rockers from bands like Pernice Brothers and Papas Fritas — didn’t think Fleetwood Mac was particuarly cool when he was growing up and his older sister played their records, he came around as he got older.
“The secret to me to a lot of those songs is in the groove and the tempo,” says Berkery, who will come to Johnny D’s on Sept. 19 with the Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society to play the Mac album “Tusk” in its entirety. “People can pontificate all day about the harmonies and the arrangements and the guitar playing, but when you hear ‘Dreams’ or ‘Over and Over’ and the deeper album cuts like ‘Wish You Were Here’ from ‘Mirage,’ those songs are the perfect tempo. They just feel so natural.”
Buckingham is seen by many as the unsung hero of the group. Caillat calls him a genius and Berkery agrees.
“I’m a huge fan of his songwriting,” he says. “He’s definitely the George Harrison or Brian Wilson-type of group. So yeah, I gravitate to the layers of acoustics and the harmonies but to support all that you need the tempo and the rhythm. It’s such a weird mix and that’s why I love the band so much. It’s so cool and almost punk rock in a way. Nobody else sounds like that.”
Buckingham remains perplexed but grateful that the band itself works at all.
“It’s a weird cocktail,” he says with a laugh. “You’ve got this girl who’s a little costumey and visually a little bit camp, and has this wonderful voice and writes great songs. It portrays one thing, and I’m putting out [a sound and image] like some guy who wanted to be in Clash or something. How do those two things fit together? I don’t know.”