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Review: Glen Campbell at Murat Theatre

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Glen Campbell, Victoria Ghost
Old National Centre
Sunday, June 10

Sunday night found music legend Glen Campbell in high spirits as he performed at the Murat Theatre. Campbell was an amicable presence, frequently sporting a grin during a set of fan favorites as well as cuts from his final studio album: Ghost on the Canvas.

Opening for Campbell was Victoria Ghost, comprised of Campbell's son and daughter: Shannon and Ashley. Victoria Ghost offered a polished take on roots music. Their songs would be perfectly at home on contemporary country radio or on a T-Bone Burnett-produced compilation.

After playing two songs, the Campbell siblings were joined on stage by the rest of Campbell's backing band, including brother Cal Campbell on drums. The band was tight; they gave each song a professional sheen worthy of The Wrecking Crew.

At 76-years-old, Campbell still sounds great, his voice is deeper, but it maintains the purity of his younger days. Campbell can still hit those high notes with ease.

Campbell has been very open about his battle with Alzheimer's and there were moments on stage where Campbell seemed to have lapses in memory, such as when a stagehand came to retrieve Campbell's blue Fender Stratocaster.

Campbell seemed unsure at first of what the stagehand wanted but after he handed over the instrument, Campbell jokingly said, "I forget things."

Another choice Campbell quip was a comment he made to his daughter as he handed her his blue rhinestone jacket, "Careful," he urged, "those things are two cents a piece."

One has to admire an artist that chooses to go out on his own terms, when faced with a disease that robs him of his means of making a living as well as an activity that brings him a lot of joy.

The set focused primarily on Campbell's Capitol records output. He opened with a lovely performance of John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind," followed by two classic Jimmy Webb penned songs: "Galveston" and "By The Time I Get To Phoenix." "Try A Little Kindness" and "Where's The Playground Susie?" were followed by another Jimmy Webb composition: "Didn't We."

While technically a country artist, many of Campbell's best-loved songs tend to fall closer to the pop side of the pop/country musical divide. His dalliance with baroque pop on "My World Fell Down" as early singles like "Guess I'm Dumb" and "Universal Soldier" gave him an eclectic approach to country music, one he shared with contemporary Lee Hazlewood. His covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Hank Williams "Lovesick Blues" were clear indicators that country is Campbell's touchstone.

Between the two covers, was "True Grit," a song, Campbell joked, that was responsible for John Wayne's only Academy Award. The Duke won an Oscar for his portrayal of U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn in True Grit and Campbell contributed two songs to the film's soundtrack.

Campbell gave his band a breather as he and daughter Shannon, on banjo, performed a rousing rendition of "Dueling Banjos." Campbell had already played stellar guitar throughout the evening, but this served as a reminder to the audience of why he'd been a member of The Wrecking Crew, an elite group of session musicians who played on recordings by many of the biggest acts in the 1960s, including The Beach Boys.

Campbell played guitar on Pet Sounds. He also served as touring member of The Beach Boys, playing bass and singing, after Brian Wilson retreated to the studio. Campbell also recorded a Wilson composition, "Guess I'm Dumb" which featured backing vocals by The Beach Boys.

After a quick breather, Campbell returned to the stage to play songs from his final album, Ghost on the Canvas. He played "Any Trouble," written by Paul Westerberg, and "It's Your Amazing Grace." Campbell sang "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" backed only by his piano player.

When Campbell launched into "Wichita Lineman," several audience members gave cheers of recognition. It was a sublime rendition of Jimmy Webb's greatest song. "Rhinestone Cowboy" and "Southern Nights" followed. Campbell restarted the latter song halfway through after singing the wrong verse. It was the only time Campbell and his band were anything but consummate professionals.

The show ended with "A Better Place," the opening cut of Ghost on the Canvas. As the last notes of the song decayed, Campbell and his band linked arms and waved goodbye to the crowd. It was a bittersweet reminder that this is indeed the end of the line for Campbell's music career.

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