On Friday night I saw Glen Campbell at Mystic Lake Casino on his Goodbye Tour. As most people probably know, Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease and is retiring from performing at the end of this tour. It was a little sad to see Glen having to read song lyrics from a teleprompter, but his voice is still excellent, and his guitar playing is still amazing. I was blown away by Glen’s guitar solos during hits like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Gentle On My Mind.” His playing looks so effortless, and yet every note of his solos fit the songs so perfectly.
I first came to know Glen Campbell’s music through John Hartford’s song “Gentle On My Mind.” When I was 15 I discovered Elvis Presley’s version of the song and I thought, “This is an amazing song.” Somehow that led me to explore my Mom’s record collection, where I found Glen’s “Gentle On My Mind” album. Once I heard Glen’s version I liked it much more than Elvis’s. I was obsessed with Glen’s version, playing it over and over until I knew all of the words. Oddly enough, I didn’t scour my Mom’s record collection well enough to find John Hartford’s original version of the song-I didn’t hear that until much later. Now I have two favorite versions of that song, Glen’s and John’s. I was entranced by the poetry of those complicated lyrics, and the complex relationship the narrator of the song had with the woman who would always be gentle on his mind. After hearing “Gentle On My Mind” so many times I wanted to hear other Glen Campbell songs, and his Greatest Hits CD was a staple of road trips taken with both my Mom and my Dad. The songs that Glen Campbell sings are a big part of America to me, I guess in part because they name-check so many different American cities. I’ve seen Glen live at least 5 times over the years. The shows have varied in quality-definitely the best one was seeing him at the Minnesota State Fair. I also saw him at Orchestra Hall in 2003 just a day or two before he was arrested for DUI.
If Glen Campbell had never sung a note he would still go down in music history as one of the most important session musicians of the 1960’s, a part of the legendary “Wrecking Crew” that performed on numerous albums during that decade. Campbell played on records by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and was a touring member of the Beach Boys. Campbell finally became a solo star in the late 1960’s thanks to his high, soaring tenor vocals. (His All-American good looks and charm on stage and screen also helped.)
Campbell was backed by a very good band, made up of mostly his children, who gave great support to their father. He seemed to miss the most lyrics on the new songs from his last album, “Ghost on the Canvas.” But Campbell’s voice remains wonderfully expressive-there were some moments during the concert where he hit some great high notes. His vocals on "Wichita Lineman" were amazing. Campbell remained in high spirits throughout the show, showcasing his usual good humor. And his guitar playing is still a joy to hear. All in all, the concert was a great way to say goodbye to one of my favorite performers.