Glen Campbell at Mystic Lake Casino, 4/13/12
Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake
Friday, April 13, 2012
View a slideshow from the concert here.
In the song "True Grit," recorded for the 1969 John Wayne film of the same name, Glen Campbell sings that a man with true grit is someone who's kind, someone who is fearless. But perhaps a more apt definition is perseverance (and persistence) in the most imperfect of circumstances.
Glen Campbell's performance at Mystic Lake Casino Friday night would no doubt be annotated in some way by the imperfect circumstance of his health; just over a year ago, Campbell, who turns 76 this month, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and in 2011 made the decision to tour a last time in support of his final studio album, Ghost on the Canvas.
Campbell took to the stage to "Gentle On my Mind," smiling confidently, resplendent in a rhinestone-sparkling royal blue jacket with matching guitar. As the song wrapped, he beamed on the sold-out audience, the audience beamed back at him, and he remarked, "Everybody's smiling like a dog that's been eatin' feces."
Oh Glen. Many would question how his condition would affect his performance, and to be certain, his normally apt guitar playing was uncharacteristically scant, and he occasionally flubbed lyrics. But from start to finish, this jokester quipped aplenty, and so with one dog poop joke, it was clear we'd be getting the same old Glen.
Everyone grinning like poop-eating pups, the band launched into "Galveston," a performance that assured this Jimmy Webb gem would remain affixed in the deep recesses of the brain for the rest of the night. Aided though he was by a teleprompter (what's the big deal -- many revival acts and musicians of his age and repertoire do), and even considering his condition, Campbell's performance was a knock-out compared to performances often delivered by men of his vintage, from the expected hits -- "Wichita Lineman," "Southern Nights" -- to the lesser-known "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," a rendition of another Jimmy Webb tune that was simply beautiful, emotive, and a highlight of the show as it showcased Campbell in a rare moment in which he had absolute ownership of the song, the stage, and his audience, not a soul in the house wondering, "Is he doing okay?"
And on that -- you're asking, "How did he do? How is he doing?" Well, we'll share this anecdote. Campbell momentarily forgot the words during "Galveston" after moving away from the teleprompter. He stopped, smiled, composed himself (as he would several times during the evening), and came back precisely with the lyric, "I am so afraid of dying." Oof.
It's important to note that his backing band is primarily comprised of family -- sons Cal and Shannon and daughter Ashley, as well as guitar player Ry Jarred and long-time collaborator T.J. Kuenster. Having friends and family accompany Campbell on his farewell tour, under these circumstances, seems a bittersweet and powerful experience for all involved, including audiences. We're glad he and his family are sharing this time with the public, not only for the service it does longtime fans of Campbell's music, but also in raising awareness for Alzheimer's and aging, issues that affect us all but which many have a hard time finding comfortable space to address.
In addition to his many other accomplishments, Campbell can brag he's passing a torch to his kids. Cal, Shannon and Ashley Campbell have collaborated with vocalist Ry Jarred and bassist Siggy Sjursen (formerly of Powerman 5000?!?) for Instant People, which opened for Campbell Friday night. The groans one might emit upon learning there's an unexpected warmup act were in this case entirely unwarranted; this polished group had an edge one might not expect in a band opening for Glen Campbell at a casino. Their offbeat country-rock sound was marked by a sweeping richness that was closer to Fleetwood Mac or Wings than Lady Antebellum. Campbell's kids and their collaborators are taking firm hold of Dad's legacy, and making it their own.
If there was any question, let it be known -- Glen's going out in style.
Critic's bias: You'd have to be a real asshole to give this guy a bad review, right? But really - the show was great.
The crowd: Sold-out, and full of superfans (including a family from Canada that was so excited to see Glen Campbell, we heard them tell no fewer than a dozen strangers from parking ramp to box office "Oh yah, we're here for the Glen Campbell show!").
Overheard in the crowd: Nothing but cheers and applause - at this point, you do not yell "Play 'Wichita Lineman'!" at Glen Campbell. He'll get to it, he'll get to it.
Random notebook dump: Keep smilin', Glen Campbell.
Gentle On my Mind/Galveston/By the Time I Get to Phoenix/Try a Little Kindness/Where's the Playground Susie/Didn't We/I Can't Stop Loving You/True Grit/Lovesick Blues/Dueling Banjos/Hey Little One (daughter Ashley and son Shannon)/Any Trouble/It's Your Amazing Grace/The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress/Country Boy/Wichita Lineman/Rhinestone Cowboy
Encore: Southern Nights/A Better Place
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