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Updated Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 04:46 PM

Glen Campbell forgetful but in fine musical form | Concert review

By Tom Keogh
Special to The Seattle Times

Mixed emotions were inevitable for fans of Glen Campbell during the legendary singer-guitarist’s performance at the Paramount Tuesday night.

One of the last concerts remaining on Campbell’s long-running “Goodbye Tour,” which the 76-year-old musician launched last year after announcing he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, the Seattle show underscored the beloved artist’s strengths as a consummate crossover musician since the 1950s.

At the same time, the ravages of Alzheimer’s were very much in evidence. Campbell sometimes stared at teleprompters, singing displayed lyrics as if reading from a book. (Even so, he lost his way on occasion.) His stage patter rambled: At one point, Campbell began a story about his “True Grit” co-star John Wayne, but the anecdote dissolved.

By the end of his 70-minute set, Campbell was visibly fatigued, if happy, delivering a poignant, soulful “A Better Place.”

“Some days I’m so confused, Lord I need the ones I love,” he sang.

Several of those whom Campbell loves most were on stage, including sons Cal (on drums) and Shannon (guitar), and his youngest, daughter Ashley (banjo, mandolin). His keyboardist of 35 years, T.J. Kuenster, acted as musical director, and the otherwise youthful ensemble also included Ry Jarred (guitar) and Kief Nilsson (bass), son of Harry Nilsson.

While forming a supportive pocket around an occasionally confused Campbell, the band also recalled the dreamy, wistful feel of his classic radio hits. Campbell wasted no time getting to the pastoral joy of John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind” and the all-important, late-1960s collaborations with Jimmy Webb, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston.” The best of the Webb gems, the amazing “Wichita Lineman,” drew a standing ovation.

For the most part, Campbell’s voice was in fine and moving form, still stirring in the higher registers. But his guitar virtuosity was the knockout. The former session ace for Frank Sinatra and the Beach Boys, who later brought expressive, haunting colors to his own recordings, was very much in evidence.

“I’m happy to be anywhere,” Campbell said, and one could tell, given his situation, that he really meant it. It was a privilege to see him close his career with grace.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com


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