Monday, October 25, 2010
Glen Campbell shines in performance at The Grove of Anaheim
Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift took this photo of Glen Campbell when he performed at the Grove of Anaheim in 2009.
This review first appeared on the Soundcheck blog on the Orange County Register Web site on Oct. 25, 2010.
Glen Campbell has carved out the kind of career that just doesn’t happen anymore.
A strong singer and virtuoso guitarist, the Arkansas native was a member of the fabled Wrecking Crew group of studio musicians who helped cut some of the most seminal recordings of the ’60s. He even served as a touring member of the Beach Boys, filling in for Brian Wilson in 1964-65, and the next year played guitar on the band’s landmark Pet Sounds.
But Campbell’s greatest fame, of course, came later that decade and on into the next, when he scored hits on both the country and pop charts while simultaneously garnering notice as an actor (most notably co-starring with John Wayne in 1969’s True Grit) and as the host of the popular Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran on CBS from 1969 to 1972. Even when the crossover hits ended in the late ’70s, Campbell continued to score a number of singles on the country charts.
Sunday night (Oct. 24, 2010), in a return engagement at the Grove of Anaheim, the 74-year-old icon brought this wealth of music and memories to an enthusiastic crowd, interlacing his best-known songs with heartfelt stories and playful jousting with members of his band.
Although Campbell only performed for roughly 70 minutes, his fast-paced show made up for such brevity with plenty of big-time audience favorites. Opening with “Gentle on my Mind,” he followed with “Galveston,” both selections bolstered by plenty of impressive and mostly flawless fretwork from the master. Before the night was through, he had offered up equally effective takes on the uptempo “Try a Little Kindness” and “Southern Nights” (complete with a 12-string guitar solo) as well as the achingly beautiful “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Where’s the Playground, Susie?” He also shared the thrill of working with the Duke as an introduction before singing the Oscar-nominated theme song from True Grit.
But the highlight of Campbell’s set in Anaheim, as it is most anywhere he performs, was “Wichita Lineman,” the Jimmy Webb classic, featuring some of his most emotive singing of the night and still more impressive guitar skills. Other standout moments came when Campbell’s voice effortlessly blended with the sopranos of one or both of his daughters, Debby and Ashley (who also plays banjo, guitar and keyboards). Campbell’s band is rounded out by one more of his eight children, Cal Campbell on drums and vocals, along with rhythm guitarist Ryan Jarred, bassist Siggy Sjursen and Campbell’s musical director, keyboardist T.J. Kuenster.
The set ended with several songs likely to be included on Campbell’s next disc, tentatively titled Ghost on the Canvas and set for release in spring. The final song he played at the Grove, “A Better Place,” allowed him to powerfully reflect on a life well-lived, from the perspective of someone who has learned the limits of human endurance.
Looking around at the enthusiastic reaction to every staple he played and the palpable affection that remains for the man performing them, it was clear that even if he hadn’t delivered these memories in full, the crowd would have loved him simply for showing up. Yet the fact that Campbell still delivers the musical goods with obvious passion is worth celebrating no matter how many times he chronicles the tales of Rhinestone Cowboys, Wichita Linemen and those sweet Southern Nights.
Opening for Campbell was Instant People, a quartet featuring the aforementioned Jarred (on lead vocals), Ashley Campbell (banjo, guitar, keyboards), Cal Campbell (percussion) and Sjursen (bass). Befitting the twentysomething age of its members, the group boasted a contemporary indie rock sound somewhere between Travis and She & Him. The group’s five original songs featured here were mostly dazzling, particularly the country-tinged folk-rock of “Abbot Waits” and artful pop of “Home.”