Thursday, December 12, 2013
PORTLAND - It's fitting that Glen Campbell closed his show Tuesday night with "A Better Place," a song from his latest and presumed last studio album, "Ghost on the Canvas."
Glen Campbell performs at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Tuesday night.
Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, Portland
"Some days I'm so confused, Lord," the old troubadour sang from the Merrill Auditorium stage, surrounded by his family. "My past gets in my way. I need the ones I love, Lord, more and more each day."
"The Goodbye Tour" captures a poignant and heartfelt moment in the history of popular music. Campbell, one of America's most loved musicians and songwriters, suffers from Alzheimer's disease. This tour is his farewell, a final jaunt around the country to say goodbye to fans while he still can present a coherent show.
For the most part, he did very well. His 70-minute set was punchy throughout, at times funny and by and large a solid presentation of his greatest hits. He lost his way a few times, and his between-song banter sounded confused.
But he carried himself with class, grace and, most important, dignity. God knows what demons await him. But give the man credit for facing his disease straight on and going out for this final tour in control of his destiny with his head held high.
The audience of about 1,200 greeted him with a standing ovation as he walked out on stage in a dapper white suit and ruffled blue shirt. He looked great, and backed up his good looks with some fine guitar work. At times, his voice sounded ragged.
But the missteps were few, and his band -- including his sons and daughter Ashley -- stepped in and nudged him along when necessary.
He opened with "Gentle on My Mind" and worked his way through 17 songs, mostly his hits from the 1960s and '70s: "Galveston," "Rhinestone Cowboy," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and one of the best songs ever written, "Wichita Lineman," courtesy of Jimmy Webb.
His sharpest vocals came midset with two lesser-known songs: "It's Your Amazing Grace" and "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress." He seemed to sing these with more confidence and sounded sure of himself, and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
Throughout the night, Campbell's guitar work was masterful. He sizzled on "Try a Little Kindness," pumping his legs as his fingers crawled up and down the guitar neck. Later in the set, he seemed tickled to trade licks with his daughter, who dueled with him on her banjo.
"My little girl!" he exclaimed.
Several video monitors helped him keep up with the lyrics. It felt a little uncomfortable at times, but those moments were few. When he got completely lost, he simply whistled along or filled the void with a guitar lick.
Most difficult was the conversation between songs. Many an artist has confused Portland, Maine, with Portland, Ore. That's not a big deal, and certainly not alarming. But as the show moved on, his fog seemed more obvious.
He laughed it off. At one, point he attributed one of his own songs to Jimmy Webb, and his daughter corrected him, telling him that he wrote it.
"I did?" he said with a laugh.
He kept his humor close at hand, and many times thanked the crowd for its support -- not just for the evening, but for all the years.
"I'm just proud to be here," he said, quoting Minnie Pearl.
At the show's end, Campbell and the band stood at the center stage for a final bow. One of his last words to the crowd said it all.
"Bye," he said with a big wave.
And goodbye to you, sir. And Godspeed.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at: