Report: Glen Campbell Live in Milwaukee

 

“Great art is eternal
and immutable”: an emotional night at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee on Jan. 21. Check out a video from the show, below. Read also the BLURT
interview
with the legendary singer and guitarist.

 

By Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen / Photo for BLURT by Scott Weiner

On Glen Campbell’s last two albums – his final ones, he
says, as he’s been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s – he covered songs by
Paul Westerberg, Guided by Voices, Green Day, Foo Fighters, and a handful of
other artists. And while those albums were universally well-reviewed in all the
right hipster places, those reviews haven’t necessarily translated into a full
embrace of his music by the Pitchfork set.

 

More’s the pity, but it explains why, at Campbell’s
Milwaukee stop
on his “Goodbye Tour,” I was one of the youngest people in the house. I’m 45,
so that doesn’t happen much these days. 
And while my initial response to that was disappointment – I’d really
hoped that Meet Glen Campbell and Ghost on the Canvas would expose Campbell to a younger audience – I soon realized that it
was just as well the crowd was made up mostly of people who remember hearing
and seeing Campbell
during his glory days.

 

The show itself was simply one of the most joyous I’ve ever
seen, with both Campbell and the audience reveling not in nostalgia but in the
hard-earned satisfaction of lives well-lived and music well-played and
brilliantly sung. Backed by Campbell’s longtime musical director T.J. Kuenster
and Instant People – a five-piece combo including three of Campbell’s children:
Ashley, Shannon, and Cal – Campbell covered the entire scope of his career in
90 minutes, from 1968’s “Gentle on My Mind” through 1977’s “Southern Nights”
right up to “It’s Your Amazing Grace” and “A Better Place” from Ghost on the Canvas.

 

Campbell’s
decision to do one final tour while he still can is a courageous one, and the
effects of the Alzheimer’s were evident on and off the entire evening. He was
openly confused when he was handed Ashley’s guitar instead of his own, which
was being repaired, and on-going sound problems on stage rattled him more than
they would have in his younger days. But he handled those moments with grace
and humor – when he realized what was going on with the guitar, he deadpanned
“Pardon me. I’ll just be a moment.”

 

The concert was also deeply inspiring. Campbell kept repeating “I’m just so happy today,” and for
every well-rehearsed showbiz joke, there were twice as many moments of
unedited, unbridled enthusiasm; after the line “the spirits make love in the
wheat field with crows,” in “Ghost on the Canvas,” he blurted “boy, I love that
line,” and more than once he looked down at his setlist and said, “Oh, I like this
one!”

 

Of course, Alzheimer’s has nothing to do with Campbell’s
voice and guitar playing, which were, if not as strong as ever, then surely
stronger than they’ve got a right to be at the age of 75. He showed terrific
vocal range in “Lovesick Blues” and “It’s Your Amazing Grace,” and his guitar
work was a marvel, from the improved solo in “Galveston” to the well-known, written parts
in “Wichita Lineman.”

 

The latter was the highlight of the show, one of those
bucket-list moments where time stands still and the world stops. Jimmy Webb’s
song is one of the finest of the 20th century, a masterpiece of
direct lyric and elegant melody, and it’s forever going to be Campbell’s signature song. And when he sang
the greatest line in that great song – “I need you more than want you/ And I
want you for all time” – the effect was breathtaking, crystallizing into a
single moment the complex, sometimes paradoxical emotions of the evening.

 

Great art is eternal and immutable even if live performances
are fleeting and our own lives are subject to both horrible twists of fate and
moments of unexpected delight.  Against
all odds, Glen Campbell’s “Goodbye Tour” captures
all of that.

 

 

 

 

Setlist:

 

1.              
Gentle
on My Mind

2.              
Galveston

3.              
By
the Time I Get to Phoenix

4.              
Try
A Little Kindness

5.              
Where’s
the Playground Susie

6.              
Didn’t
We

7.              
I
Can’t Stop Loving You

8.              
True
Grit

9.              
Lovesick
Blues

10.          
Dueling
Banjos

11.          
Hey
Little One (performed by Ashley and Shannon Campbell)

12.          
Any
Trouble

13.          
It’s
Your Amazing Grace

14.          
Country
Boy

15.          
The
Moon’s a Harsh Mistress

16.          
Ghost
On The Canvas

17.          
Wichita Lineman

18.          
Rhinestone
Cowboy

19.          
Southern
Nights (Encore)

20.          
A Better Place (Encore)

 

Photo Credit: Scott
Weiner

 

 

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