Campbell was grateful, humble — everything a goodbye should be

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 230 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — Glen Campbell came home to say goodbye.

The Arkansas native performed a sold-out show Friday night (April 27) at the Walton Arts Center. Tickets for this show went so quickly that the arts center added another performance tonight (April 28), and tickets (at $43-$79) are still available.

The crowd gave him a standing ovation before he even launched into the music. When he did, “Gentle on My Mind” came first, then “Galveston.” Campbell, who turned 76 last Sunday (April 22), revealed last year that he’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Now on “The Goodbye Tour,” he’s doing something that is brave and respectable, but that has to be scary. He’s singing songs he’s sung thousands of times, that are part of our culture. He’s singing words that everyone else also knows by heart, hoping he will remember them

This music legend is loved and admired, and rightfully so, for his wonderful voice, skilled guitar chops and professional longevity. And, Friday night, his home state allowed him to just be human — mistakes happened, but so did some amazing, unforgettable music.

Campbell was on this same stage in 2004, and in Friday’s performance he again showed his good-natured personality and quick sense of humor. He had the same crinkles framing his eyes.But those eyes often looked to teleprompters on stage for lyrics that don’t come so easily these days.

He wore a steel gray suit — the jacket embellished with rhinestones — over a black shirt with black cowboy boots, and often stomped his foot to the beat. And he delivered a slew of hits that the crowd wanted to hear, including “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights,” both near the end of the show.

With “Try a Little Kindness,” his fingers flew across the strings of his blue and white electric guitar. He became a crooner for two lovely songs, “Where’s the Playground, Susie?” and “Didn’t We,” offering smooth vocals as he strolled back and forth across the stage.

Campbell’s daughter, Ashley, brought her banjo to center stage and played “Dueling Banjos” with Campbell, him playing guitar. Their playing was fast and tight, and they smiled at each other all the way through, as they offered this truly impressive treat. (She also kept a watchful eye on him through the show, and prompted him with the correct musical keys for some songs.)

Campbell and his band played about 20 songs in 75 minutes. While Campbell took a five-minute break about halfway through the show, his daughter and his son Shannon sang one of her favorites, “Hey, Little One,” a hit from the 1960s. (His son, Cal, played drums.)

Campbell had fun with “Lovesick Blues,” and corrected himself when he tripped on a lyric. Later, on “Country Boy,” he broke into a superb guitar solo, showing still-nimble fingers.

Campbell was born in Delight, Ark., one of 12 children of a sharecropper. After starting as a studio musician, he went on to forge an impressive career, with 81 total hits on various charts and selling more than 45 million albums. (As a session player, he played guitar in Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Strangers in the Night.”)

Campbell was featured on the big screen in True Grit alongside John Wayne, and recorded the Oscar-nominated title song, which he performed at the concert Friday. He was initially confused about the key for the song and missed a few lyrics, but his guitar licks were solid.

With his show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which aired on CBS from 1969-72, Campbell hosted musicians such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Diamond.

Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and inducted into the Musicians’ Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of The Wrecking Crew. He’s netted accolades from the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association, the Gospel Music Association and the Grammy Awards, including the 2012 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Because of his health, Campbell had the unusual position of knowing he was making his final album, Ghost on the Canvas, which was released last year. In addition to songs written by Campbell with his producer/collaborator Julian Raymond, it features songs from Paul Westerberg, Bob Pollard and Jakob Dylan and appearances by Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, Brian Setzer, Billy Corgan and others. When his son Shannon said Campbell was going to perform a tune off the new album, Campbell responded, “Really, I didn’t know I had a new album.” Then, “I’m kidding.”

Campbell started with “Any Trouble, with which he was less confident and offered a weak ending. He seemed equally uncomfortable, or maybe just less familiar, with “It’s Your Amazing Grace.”

Accompanied only by his longtime keyboard player, T.J. Kuenster, Campbell sang an older tune, “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress,” which he recorded in the 1970s. His vocals took on a wonderful warmth and depth, and this was easily the most beautiful song of the night.

With “Wichita Lineman,” Campbell sang, “I know I need a small vacation,” then jokingly said, “I’d take a long one too.” He played the strong, familiar guitar chords of this one, as he sidled up to his son, Shannon, also playing guitar. Campbell ended the song powerfully, with the line, “And I’m doing fine,” bringing the crowd to its feet.

And, he ended the show with the tender and honest “A Better Place,” also from the new album. It includes these lines: “Some days I’m so confused, Lord/ My past gets in my way/ I need the ones I love, Lord/ More and more each day/ One thing I know/ The world’s been good to me/ A better place awaits you’ll see.” Instead of just quitting and fading away, Campbell had the chance to say goodbye to his fans, and he took it. Last night, Campbell — the man and the musician — was grateful, humble, generous and sincere. It was everything a goodbye should be.

Prior to the show, Walton Arts Center president and CEO Peter Lane read a letter to Campbell from Gov. Mike Beebe commending him for his illustrious career. To read the letter, go here.