Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 5:17 pm | Fair 65º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Glen Campbell Brings Goodbye Tour to Lobero Theatre

Legendary musician, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, is raising awareness about the disease

Glen Campbell has had a truly remarkable career in music. Before his solo career took off, he contributed guitar as a session musician to a staggering number of songs, including Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night.” Interestingly, Campbell couldn’t read music and was self-taught as a guitarist — he just naturally and very quickly figured out what to play in order to capture the feel of a given song.

Of course, he is best known for his solo career, with a whopping 45 million records sold and several Grammys won along the way. He was also the host of the popular Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which aired on CBS from 1969-1972 and introduced artists such as Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and Willie Nelson to a wider audience. He was even in the 1969 film True Grit with John Wayne.

Glen Campbell at a performance in Texas in 2004.
Glen Campbell at a performance in Texas in 2004.

Recently, Campbell and his family announced that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and he has embarked on a Goodbye Tour to spread awareness of the disease, which is the sixth-leading cause of death in this country and the only one of the top 10 causes for which there is no way to slow its advance, let alone prevent or cure it. Millions of people have this disease in the United States alone, with an estimated 9,000 living in Santa Barbara.

Campbell’s tour stopped at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday night for a benefit concert for the California Central Coast Chapter of the Alzheimers Association.

And what a concert it was! Campbell sounded great, with moving renditions of well-loved songs such as “Gentle on My Mind,” “Southern Nights,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” — which he embellished at the end with “still on the line and doing fine” — and “Galveston.” These last three were written by Jimmy Webb, who always supplied amazing material to Campbell and whose other songs on the concert program were “Where’s the Playground Susie” and “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress.”

Campbell also performed songs from his wonderful new album, Ghost on the Canvas, which updates but does not radically change the vintage Campbell sound, including the title track and “Any Trouble” written by former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg, and “It’s Your Amazing Grace,” “In My Arms” and “A Better Place.”

While signs of Alzheimer’s disease were subtly apparent — he used monitors with the songs’ lyrics, a few stories seemed to end prematurely, such as the one about Wayne during the introduction to the song “True Grit,” and he needed to be reminded what key a few songs were in — Campbell is still in great form. His singing is pure and seemingly effortless, and his guitar playing is simply stellar and arguably completely undiminished by the disease. Campbell even joked a bit, such as starting out “It’s Only Make Believe” as an Elvis impersonation.

Campbell’s backing band included three of his children — daughter Ashley on banjo, keyboards and vocals, and sons Shannon and Cal on vocals plus guitar and drums, respectively. These three performed as part of the band Instant People as an opening set. Ashley and Glen seem to have a special connection, and they played a stirring rendition of “Dueling Banjos.” Also in the band was keyboardist T.J. Kuenster, who has been playing with Campbell for more than 35 years, longer than the kids have been alive.

It was certainly bittersweet to hear Campbell perform so well, knowing that his medical condition continues to degrade. But he should be proud as he rides off into the sunset while continuing to share his remarkable talent with the world and raising awareness and money for the disease that is so profoundly impacting his life.

Setlist

Gentle on My Mind
Galveston
Try a Little Kindness
It’s Only Make Believe
Where’s the Playground Susie
Dreams of the Everyday Housewife
True Grit
By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Dueling Banjos
Hey Little One
Ghost on the Canvas
It’s Your Amazing Grace
Any Trouble
Southern Nights
The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress
Wichita Lineman
Rhinestone Cowboy
In My Arms
A Better Place

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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