Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Glen Campbell live review: Grammy Museum

A version of my review originally appeared on the Soundcheck blog at

Glen Campbell’s sold out, hour-long performance Monday night at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles was a truly heartwarming experience. Not only because the country/pop music legend is in the midst of a farewell tour to support his final studio album “Ghost on the Canvas” and battling Alzheimer’s disease. Just the simple fact that he was genuinely pleased to be onstage.

Appearing as part of the museum’s “An Evening With” series in the intimate 200-seat Clive Davis Theater, Campbell was backed by a fine six-piece band which comprised three of his adult children and longtime tour music director T.J. Kuenster on keyboards.

The program started with a short career overview film and brief Q&A hosted by Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli. When asked about memorable career moments, Campbell mentioned recording with Frank Sinatra in the 1960s and did an impression that was spot-on. He also recalled “True Grit” co-star John Wayne as "one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet."

This Saturday, Campbell, 75, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (along with Diana Ross, George Jones, Allman Brothers Band, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gil Scott-Heron and the Memphis Horns) and is scheduled to play during the Grammy Awards telecast on Sunday with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton.

“Canvas,” released last summer on Surfdog Records, was produced by Julian Raymond (Cheap Trick, Fastball, Roseanne Cash), who also helmed 2008’s “Meet Glen Campbell.”   
The pair co-wrote several songs together;  the rest find Campbell putting his warm vocal stamp on tunes from The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers, Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices, Roger Manning (ex-Jellyfish) and Teddy Thompson. An all-star cast - Brian Setzer, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Chris Isaak, Dick Dale, Billy Corgan, among them – contributed music to the solid collection.

At the Grammy Museum, a high spirited Campbell was in robust vocal form and still displayed some dexterous electric guitar skills. Humorous asides kept the audience laughing throughout the set. At one point, he quipped, “I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be anywhere.”

The dozen songs included such pop and country chart hits as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston,” “Where’s the Playground, Susie” (Campbell noted he owed much of his career success to Jimmy Webb, who composed all four), “Southern Nights,” “Try a Little Kindness” (a self-described life mantra), “True Grit” and crowd singalong, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Campbell capped everything off with the poignant, spiritual-tinged “A Better Place,” off “Canvas.”

Side note: I spotted TV game show host Wink Martindale and smooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair in the crowd and managed to finally take in the Grammy Museum’s fascinating George Harrison exhibit “Living in the Material World.” A must visit for Harrison and Beatles fans, it encompasses handwritten lyrics, costumes, guitars, recording studio ephemera and more. Runs through March 25.

Glen Campbell is at Pala Casino Resort and Spa, 11154 Highway 76, Pala, 8 p.m. Feb. 17, $45-$55.

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