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Review: Despite Alzheimer’s, Campbell doesn’t miss a beat

Friday, May 25, 2012
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ENTERTAINMENT


Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell

— Glen Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Thursday night at his concert in the Egg’s Hart Theater, Campbell, who has said he can forget a lyric or guitar part, didn’t seem to miss a beat. It helped that the audience treated him with reverence for the superstar he is.

He opened with “Gentle on My Mind,” plucking a neat solo to flash some of his guitar chops, echoing the phrases of his guitar hero Django Reinhardt.

He followed with another hit, “Galveston.” This tune dragged, his vocals a bit off, the band without energy, seemingly cautious. Again he played a cool guitar solo for two choruses to end the song, this time blues-based.

Then came “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” another one of his early big ones. He sang the melancholy, low-energy tune unsteadily, but it flowed well enough. All these songs were brief, but good old-school country tunes.

Related story

For Gazette music writer Brian McElhiney's preview of this show, click here.

“Who wrote this?” he asked the audience. “I did,” he answered before breaking into “Try a Little Kindness.”

Between songs Campbell didn’t always know what came next. As soon as the band started the music, he instantly found his place in the tune, singing the first bar and nailing his guitar parts.

“We love you Glen Campbell,” a man yelled before Campbell started a short version of “Where’s the Playground Susie?,” one of his many Jimmy Webb tunes, followed by the ballad “Didn’t We.”

The whole band sang the chorus to start “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” His children made up most of his band — Ashley on keyboards and banjo, Cal on drums and Shannon on guitar.

Ashley pulled up a stool for him to sing “True Grit,” which he eagerly sat on, until the guitar solo came around and he stood to do his thing. Son Cal helped his father start the song “Any Trouble.” Several times, one of his kids guided him to the next tune. Campbell and Ashley played “dueling banjos,” raising the energy of the hall for a moment.

Wearing black pants and a blue rhinestoned jacket, he looked good, particularly singing the tune “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress.”

Cal Campbell told us during the warm-up act that the tour was interesting. “We learned a lot about the disease, about therapy, and this is part of the therapy, you guys showing up and supporting him.”

Campbell sang “Wichita Lineman,” another great Webb tune. The delivery was not great — none of the singing was strong — but it was good to hear Campbell sing it and the audience cheering him on.

He couldn’t belt out “Rhinestone Cowboy,” but again, it was good — and emotional — to hear him give it his best. He closed with “Southern Nights” and “A Better Place.”

Instant People opened the show, which was essentially his backup band. They played decent earthy rock music. Admiring the Egg’s theater, Ryan Jared said that “All venues are not created equal.”

While the hall was crowded, it was surprisingly not sold out. Also, an older crowd like this usually drags along in reluctant tow a younger generation. There were very few young people. I made an effort to find 10 people who looked under 30, and failed.

Billed the “Goodbye Tour,” you typically assume there will be several more tours following. This one, sadly, felt like his last, though you never know.

 
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