If you’re of a certain age, Glen Campbell first hit your consciousness with a run of hits in the ’60s, polished ear candy written by aces like Jimmy Webb, John Hartford and Allen Touissant. Then he was a TV and talk-show celebrity, as square and irrelevant as could be; he wound up leaning country, and became a fixture in that little corner of hell known as Branson, Mo.
What has always been underappreciated is his pre-fame years as a guitarist with the legendary Wrecking Crew session team and Phil Spector’s LA wall-of-sound orchestra. The cat is a big part of the DNA of rock & roll, period.
Thursday’s show was bittersweet, weird, and triumphant. It was announced late last year that Campbell, who’s 76, was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and would embark on a farewell tour before packing it in. He’s out there for two more months.
He looked great for 76. He sang great and he unleashed some jaw-dropping guitar solos throughout the show. He relied heavily on teleprompters, but so does everybody these days. Between songs he did seem a little out of it, although he told a story or two and got some laughs from some wisecracks. His band included three of his kids, who all played great, and one wonders what was going on in their heads, just how much of a tightrope this tour has been for them.
The show was the old hits, and touched only slightly on his two recent and rather staggering “comeback” albums (in which he covers the likes of Green Day and Travis with help from musicians from Tom Petty’s band and Jellyfish). Which was fitting, as this was a goodbye tour and I’m sure the vast majority of the decidedly geriatric crowd was unaware that he’d even released two comeback albums and could give a rat’s ass about Travis covers. Things were fairly Branson-y for much of the show, but by the time they got to “Wichita Lineman,” Campbell was simply singing his ass off, and when he and son Shannon laid into that twangy guitar solo it was pure beauty and bliss.
Goodbye, Mr. Campbell, and thank you.