When country singer Glen Campbell announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, one more tour — The Goodbye Tour — was planned.
Skeptics opined that the now 76-year-old would be blundering on stage, and some even predicted that the ensuing shows in the tour would be like watching a long, slow train wreck.
When » Tuesday, June 26
Where » Sandy Amphitheater, Sandy.
Bottom Line » It was hard to notice that anything was amiss as Glen Campbell showed that star power is a powerful thing.
But Tuesday night at the Sandy Amphitheater, Campbell happily proved everyone wrong by delivering a crowd-pleasing set in front of adoring fans who forgave any missteps.
There were missteps, to be sure. He frequently needed to be reminded what key the next song was in. He flubbed a few lines. At one point, he became confused when he stepped in front of one of the three on-stage teleprompters and then couldn’t find them to help him along.
But Campbell’s aw-shucks, self-deprecating manner covered up much of any awkwardness. With a showmanship that reminded you of the great performers of Las Vegas — corny jokes and all — he showed that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis couldn’t keep him off a stage he seemed to relish so much.
The one-hour, 17-song set featured his biggest hits, including his signature song, "Rhinestone Cowboy," as well as "Wichita Lineman" and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." Despite many of the songs being recorded in the gauzy "countrypolitan" style when they were released in the 1970s, Campbell’s six-piece band made the songs sound contemporary with a leaner, more guitar-based sound. Songs from his most recent album, "Ghost on the Canvas," didn’t sound as if they tried too hard to be current — the songs, much like his entire catalog, are timeless and have held up well.
Campbell’s stage set-up was simple, with three drapes of crushed canvas hanging from the rafters behind him. The most ostentatious (and charming) set piece was Campbell’s bright blue rhinestone-studded shirt that was accented with pink around the cuffs and shoulders.
While he could no longer hit the high notes he once sang with The Beach Boys, Campbell displayed a warm low tenor that captured the sentiment of the lyrics. But don’t mistake that for sentimentality, because Campbell’s amiability made it impossible to feel pity for him.
Best of all, Campbell showed the same skills on the guitar that made him one of the most in-demand session guitarists in the 1960s before he became a singing star. With nimble fingers he unleashed precise electric guitar solos on "Gentle on My Mind," "Try a Little Kindness" and "Wichita Lineman."
While it was not possible to not regret Campbell leaving the stage at the end of the show, flanked by three of his children who played alongside him, it was reassuring to think that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is not a death sentence, but an opportunity to display the gifts learned and earned over a lifetime.
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