By Steve Baltin | May 01, 2015 9:00 AM EDT
A two-hour performance and Q&A at the school’s Bovard Auditorium included a nod to “Tusk.”
Lindsey Buckingham didn’t attend the University of Southern California — the Fleetwood Mac guitarist went to San Jose State University outside the Bay Area — but on Wednesday night (April 29) at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, he received a king’s welcome at the downtown Los Angeles campus.
It’s no wonder: it was with the USC marching band that Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac recorded the seminal Tusk in 1979, footage of which kicked off the two-hour program, while a performance of the title track and Mac favorite “Go Your Own Way” — with the current marching band — ended the evening.
In between, Buckingham dazzled the crowd with acoustic numbers (among them: a stunning “Never Going Back Again”) and a lively dialog moderated by David Belasco. The conversation began with talk of the band’s recent American tour, which went longer than expected at 82 dates. “We couldn’t get away from the Forum for one,” he quipped, referring to the total of five nights played in L.A. between 2014 and this year. “It’s a great time for Fleetwood Mac,” he added, crediting the return of Christine McVie.
“It’s a very karmic time for the band, in that if you look at this perhaps as the beginning of the last act then it’s very appropriate for her to return,” he said. “[And] we’re playing to many generations of people and they all seem to be enjoying it the same.”
Buckingham also spoke of growing up in Atherton, California with two older brothers. His sibling Jeff turned him on to Elvis Presley. “Without Jeff, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” he said, “So damn you, Jeff.”
He went on to teach himself guitar. “No lessons to this day,” he boasted. And he doesn’t read music, either.
Not surprisingly, the sold-out room was keenly interested in the well-documented days of Rumours, as Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and Christine and John McVie were simultaneously breaking up while making one of the best-selling albums of all time.
“You have to look at what Rumours was, what drove the subject matter,” he said. “You had two couples who were broken up or breaking up. And probably you could say success we had achieved was the catalyst for those breakups.”
And yes, they were unique and difficult circumstances as one would imagine. “Normally in a breakup, you create distance and time to create closure,” he noted. “We had to live in selective sets of denial.”
Of his own his departure in 1987 following the album Tango In The Night, Buckingham was blunt: “If everybody wanted to follow the left side of the pallet like I had on Tusk, there would have been no need for me to do solo work,” he said. “[But] by the time we got done with Tango In The Night it became very difficult to get things done and that’s why I took off.”
That was then, though, and Fleetwood Mac is back to being the well-oiled juggernaut that dominates both on the radio and in arenas. In fact, Buckingham added that he and Christine McVie had recently worked on some stuff and it was “better than ever.”
Before the night ended, students got to ask questions, one of which wondered whether today’s artists will have the staying power of Fleetwood Mac. In his answer, Buckingham referenced Taylor Swift. “I actually like Taylor Swift,” he said. “I admire what she’s been able to do on some levels… There are a ton of really good people out there. I don’t think music is any less vital. I think it’s a little harder to churn out interfaces with sociology. When I was a kid and Elvis Presley broke through to a middle class, white audience, it was a sociological phenomenon that lasted through the Beatles and even a bit through Fleetwood Mac.”