No surprise here — Glen Campbell had ’em at the opening strains of his first number, the classic “Gentle on My Mind.”
On an emotional, home-state stop of his Goodbye Tour on Thursday evening at Robinson Center Music Hall, Campbell electrified the crowd from the start with his unmistakable — and still strong — voice as he took the stage and immediately launched into the John Hartford song that earned him a Grammy back in 1968. He was greeted with the first of several standing ovations.
Saying he was “so happy to be here” and “glad to be home,” Campbell seemed to relish the fans as much as they savored one of the last chances to see him perform.
Though now 76 and dealing with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he looked good, sounded terrific and proved he’s still one heckuva performer by belting out his best-known hits in an 18-song set that lasted almost 70 minutes.
OK, a word or two may have been dropped here and there, at times he needed a little help on an opening key and there were several kind of odd references to his hair bothering him. But so what? He’s still quite simply a maestro on the guitar, and, with daughter Ashley Campbell on banjo, put on such a show with the instrumental “Dueling Banjos” that the crowd clapped, cheered and whistled throughout.
That song was made famous, of course, by the 1972 film “Deliverance.” Campbell wasn’t in that movie, but he was happy to remind the audience about his turn opposite John Wayne in “True Grit” before singing the title tune.
Hank Williams was a big influence on the young Campbell as he developed his own musical style, and his cover of “Lovesick Blues” was another highlight. Ditto “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which the audience sang right back to him.
At times, Campbell was joined on stage by some of his siblings and children. Three of his sisters blended their voices with his on “Try a Little Kindness,” and Ashley and her brother Shannon Campbell proved they’re carrying on the family tradition as their band Victoria Ghost opened the show with an appealing brand of bluegrass and country.
A Glen Campbell show isn’t complete without the hits “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” and he delivered them with gusto. And, yeah, he gave a shout out to the Natural State by changing “Country Boy” a bit, as in “you got your feet in L.A., but your mind's on Arkansas.”
Along the way, certain lyrics proved not only touching, but just plain heart-wrenching. Perhaps none so more than those in “A Better Place,” with lines like “the world's been good to me” and “some days I'm so confused, Lord.”
Glen Campbell had an astonishing career that included great success on both the pop and country charts, a hit TV show and roles in movies. If Thursday night was really his final show in Little Rock, it certainly was a poignant, remarkable one.
Arkansas obviously loves it native son, and Gov. Mike Beebe brought the night to a touching end as he and Show Dog - Universal Music President Mark Wright presented Campbell with a lifetime achievement award from the Arkansas Motion Picture Institute.
More photos from Brian Chilson after the jump.