Glen Campbell: Rhymes with True Grit
February 21, 2011
It was a $39 concert. Perhaps that’s the most charitable way to describe singer Glen Campbell’s performance Sunday night before a sparse crowd at the Tachi Palace in Lemoore. I only paid $39 for my ticket, so quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.
True confession. When I can’t sleep at night, I wander into the family room and put on a concert DVD of Glen Campbell from 2002, performing on PBS with the Sioux Falls Symphony. It is a masterful performance by a singer and guitarist at the top of his game. I’ve been a fan for years. I know what the guy is capable of.
That Glen Campbell didn’t make it to Lemoore. Instead, this other Glen Campbell took the stage in the casino bingo hall a few minutes after 7 p.m., fronting a youthful-looking band of six musicians and one back-up singer. The singer was his oldest daughter. Four of the other six musicians are also his children, making this a true Campbell family affair.
Red flags started dropping early. After opening with the standard “Gentle on My Mind,” Campbell, 71, mostly forgot the words to “Galveston.” He repeated his jokes often, insisting that “It’s great to be here. At my age, it’s great to be anywhere.” and mumbling several predictable cracks about playing in a town called Lemoore.
He stuck mostly to the hits, churning out “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “True Grit,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and “Where’s the Playground, Susie?” with mixed results given a loud sound system that seemed to throw Campbell off several times. But switching back and forth to various guitars, this former studio musician still showed occasional flashes of brilliance, reminding us that he remains one of the foremost guitarists of his generation.
Midway through the show, Campbell left the stage, announcing that “he was going to take a tinkle,” leaving his daughters to carry the next ten minutes by performing a couple of duets, including “Landslide” and introducing the band. It’s odd that the main star disappears when the show runs only 75 minutes, but my friends and I were betting whether or not Campbell could have remembered the band members’ names.
Campbell finally returned and for a few minutes, the serious musician broke through, doing a well-received duet with his younger daughter on “Dueling Banjos.” He then introduced what he called, “the most played song of the millennium” as he sang the Jimmy Webb masterpiece “Wichita Lineman.” He knew the words and hit the notes. The song obviously means so much to him and it resonated with the crowd.
There were a few surprises. Near the end, Campbell offered up his version of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” – at which point, a friend leaned over to me, having seen several Campbell concerts before, and whispered “He could be singing about tonight.” Perhaps.
For an encore, Campbell chose a new song coming out in May. But one daughter had to remind him on stage about the upcoming record while the other daughter had to announce the title. It was that kind of night.
At the end, Campbell was escorted off the stage by his oldest daughter while the band played a few chords of “Southern Nights.” They didn’t do the song, just a few notes, as if to remind us of a Campbell classic we didn’t hear.
So it was a $39 concert from a $100 performer. I’d like to think that the guy just had an off night, rather than accept that, after all these years, Glen Campbell really doesn’t care anymore. When I got home, I popped in the 2002 DVD to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Nope, that’s the Glen Campbell I’ll remember. Gentle on my mind. Still on the line.