Glen Campbell, Thalia Mara Hall, Jackson, Mississippi, February 26, 2012
Glen Campbell brought his goodbye tour to Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi, Sunday night. Campbell led the mainly over-40 crowd down memory lane, even as he loses his own memory, all for the benefit of The MIND Center, which studies the cause of Alzheimer’s through years of neurocognitive testing and brain imaging.
Campbell wasted no time getting down to business, singing Gentle On My Mind, Galveston and By The Time I Get To Phoenix at the beginning of the show. He flubbed a few lines and was heavily dependent on the teleprompters, but nobody really seemed to care. His voice still sounds good and he can still play a guitar like ringing a bell – take that, Alzheimer’s. There were tears from those of us in the audience on this night, but laughs, too. Campbell has always been a funny guy, but the disease has left him just a bit goofy, so it’s hard to tell when the funny lines are intentional and when they’re not. Nobody really seemed to care about that, either.
Campbell’s band included sons Cal (drums) and Shannon (guitar) and daughter Ashley Campbell on banjo and keys. Ashley acted as stage manager and kept the Rhinestone Cowboy straight, making him come get his guitar for one number and talking him into coming over to the microphone for another. “Yeah, that would be good,” he said with a grin, moving from the side of the stage where he had set up to begin singing without amplification.
In the audience, the memories were palpable. It was strange, really. We were all caught up in our recollections about this American icon and his songs even as we watched him forget whether he wrote Try A Little Kindness. “Did Jimmy Webb write this?” On this wonderfully sad night we saw the fragility of human awareness and understanding playing out right there on stage. And that realization prompted memories of loved ones, friends and leaders who have succumbed to Alzheimer’s or dementia or just plain old C.R.S. disease. Not to trivialize any of that, but most of us were old enough to relate to some degree – by the way, have you seen my glasses? My car keys? I was going to tell you something important but for the life of me . . .
In my personal memory banks, the old Glen Campbell TV show is front and center. I saw it as a kid, loved it, but at the time I failed to realize how good Campbell and the other musicians on that show really were. Here’s a reminder:
Galveston. Oh Galveston. When Campbell sang Galveston Sunday night, those words “I am so afraid of dying” struck me different than before. He really doesn’t seem to be one bit afraid of dying, or of a fate that in some ways seems worse. We should all be so brave about our own. Bravo, Glen Campbell, bravo!
Set list from the Jackson show:
Gentle On My Mind
By The Time I Get To Phoenix
Try A Little Kindness
Where’s The Playground Susie
I Can’t Stop Loving You
It’s Your Amazing Grace*
The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress
A Better Place*
*songs from latest record, Ghost On The Canvas
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