Why I felt betrayed by Fleetwood Mac at Classic West

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

In a recent interview with Lindsey Buckingham, I asked the Fleetwood Mac frontman about turning his attention from his and Christine McVie’s new duets album to Fleetwood Mac’s participation in Classic West.

First he cringed, as though the mere mention of the two-day festival — which brought Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles, among other veteran rock acts, to Dodger Stadium over the weekend — had embarrassed him. Then he explained that the explicitly nostalgic event wasn’t exactly his dream gig, but that he’d agreed to do it in deference to his manager, Irving Azoff, who put the Classic West together.

Buckingham’s mantra for the show? “Just close your eyes and take the money.”

Having seen Sunday’s miserable excuse for a concert, I wish I’d been closing my eyes.

It’s not that I object to (or was scandalized by) Buckingham’s avowed desire to be paid. Pop music is fundamentally a commercial enterprise; money plays no less a role than a strong beat in making the whole thing go.

So of course Classic West was a paycheck, one almost certainly inspired by the enormous success of last year’s Desert Trip festival in Indio, which made an estimated $160 million with a boomer-attuned bill that included the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. (On Sunday, Fleetwood Mac was preceded by Journey and Earth Wind & Fire, both as competent as they were unremarkable.)

But great pop makes you forget about the profit motive; it finds ways to put across real emotion or drama or excitement — something, anyway, that feels like those things — while doing its dirty work behind your back.

And that’s a trick Fleetwood Mac knows better than just about any other band in rock history.

Take the group’s celebrated “Rumours” album, which we’re constantly reminded has sold approximately 1 zillion copies since it came out in 1977. At another point in our conversation,…

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