Monday, March 26, 2012

Glen Campbell

On Friday, March 16, Donna and I journeyed to Midland, where we lived from 1997 to 2002, and watched Glen Campbell in concert at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, located about halfway between Midland and Odessa.

Donna is the one who discovered Mr. Campbell would be playing nearby, and she made all the arrangements for us to attend. I'm grateful she did. I'm glad we attended, for two reasons.

First, when growing up, I was a fan of folk music, and I enjoyed the Smothers Brothers as well as other folk artists. Yeah, they did a lot of brotherly bantering in their shows, but they were -- and are -- talented musicians. They had a show on CBS in those days, and I watched it regularly. In 1968, Mr. Campbell hosted a summer replacement show for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and I began watching it. I enjoyed his hits of those days, such as "Wichita Lineman", "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", "Galveston", and "Gentle on My Mind". Although most people are unaware, Campbell played some for the Beach Boys prior to this. He played some on tour and was a session musician for the Beach Boys best album, Pet Sounds. I lost interest in Campbell during his "fling" time with Tanya Tucker, and I felt like his behavior during that time was at great odds with the image he had cultivated prior to that.

The second reason I'm glad I attended this performance is that Campbell has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and this is his farewell tour. My father suffered through several years of dementia prior to his death, so I feel a bit of camaraderie for Campbell and his family.

The evening began with an opening set of 5 or 6 songs from a young group called Instant People. I did not know it until later in the show, but three of the 5 young people in that band are children of Glen Campbell. Click here to see them perform a song called "Waiting on Someday". If you watch this video, the Campbell children are Ashley (only female -- far left), Cal (second from right on guitar and with hat), and Shannon (far right). All the children are multi-talented. Ashley, for example, played keyboards and banjo; Cal played guitar and drums; Shannon played rhythm guitar. They harmonized extremely well.

When Campbell came on stage, he was accompanied by all the members of Instant People (except for one) as well as a gentleman who has been with him for over 35 years. He played all the major hits of his career as well as a few other songs.

Of course, I was interested in how well Campbell would be able to perform considering his illness. Having 3 of his children on stage with him provides him with a safety net, and they all watch after him, especially his daughter. For example, at one point, he was trying to take off his jacket, but neglected to remove his guitar first. He struggled for a moment before Ashley came to his aid. He is also led on and off stage, and took a short break in the middle of the show while the younger musicians played a song or two on their own.

He is still able to play guitar effectively, but the young man from Instant People who is not related to him covers for him by playing along for the most part. Teleprompters are also located around the stage for him to glance at, and he does make extensive use of them. Occasionally, he will walk around stage and walk beyond the teleprompters, but he doesn't stay away too long.

Those of us who have watched someone slip into the hazy and blurred hallways of dementia will recognize that blank gaze, and I saw it in Campbell's face a few times that night. But his voice still has its old range, though it might be a bit rough at times.

As I watched Campbell perform, I watched a man with a passion for entertaining. It's sad to know that his time is coming to a close and that the thing he loves to do in life will soon be outside his ability. I'm glad I was able to see him perform on his final tour.

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