IT is not every concert that ends with a collection for the Alzheimer’s Society.
But Glen Campbell’s retirement and farewell tour gig at the sold-out Dome, Brighton, last night (Thursday) was an extraordinary occasion to be thankfully savoured for the right reasons.
It could have been maudlin; after all, it is common knowledge that Glen is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and he is making this tour while he can still perform and say farewell to his fans.
Yet despite this sobering backdrop there were plenty of laughs and smiles. Glen poked fun at his predicament early on, joking: “It’s a been a while since I have been here. Yesterday?”
I first heard Glen, now 75, on my sister Janice’s stereogram in Germany in the early 1970s and I was knocked out by his wonderful warm voice that simply caressed songs.
He was good enough to stand in for a while for the Beach Boys and to endure for many decades of passing musical fashions. His ability with a guitar has never been under-estimated by people in the music business, despite the obvious magic of his creamy voice. Frank Sinatra, never one to suffer fools, was happy to hire him. Some quicksilver guitar solos, including one terrific duel with his banjo-playing daughter Ashley, confirmed during this gig that his true musical ability was undimmed.
Listening to him ease his way vocally through songs like Wichita Lineman, Galveston and By the Time I Get to Phoenix was a reminder about what makes legends; a great voice and enough classy songs, in his case often thanks to the wonderful writing of Jim Webb.
Campbell, also backed by two sons, modestly said: “Ah, Jim Webb. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t here. None of us would. It would be just another day.”
After a final rather sombre and moving encore In a Better Place, reflecting his religious faith, the respect for the talent and warmth for the man rolled into one almost overwhelming wave of applause across the hall as everyone stood.
After about thirty years of reviewing shows of all kinds, my head always tries to tell me showbiz is just that; business. And Glen was certainly the consummate pro in bitter-sweet circumstances.
But watching Glen leave the Brighton stage with last gentle wave I could not help wishing that he will be able to remember in the years to come just a little of the deep affection people sent him on this special night.