I kind of wish I didn't know the score last night. I wonder if I didn't know that this was Glen Campbell's final tour, or that the entertainer has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, whether the show would have impacted me as deeply as it did. I guess in the end it added to the achingly poignant sting of his lyrics and this bittersweet goodbye.
For his packed show at the beautiful State Theatre in Ithaca, Campbell came out swinging and strong, opening with "Forever Gentle On My Mind." The song proved that he still has the guitar chops, as he dug in to his neon blue guitar with a terse and tight twang. And at 76, the man's voice -- both range and tone -- are still intact. He rolled out all the hits, including "Galveston," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Country Boy," "Southern Nights," and of course "Rhinestone Cowboy," along with his most excellent band, which included his daughter Ashley on banjo and keys, son Shannon on guitar, and son Cal on drums.
Ashley and Shannon opened the show with their bluegrass/Americana trio, Victoria Ghost. This group was fantastic in its simplicity, and well worth the price of admission alone. Once Glen came on stage, Ashley was particularly impressive as she kept a constant eye on her dad, feeding him lines, keys, and generally keeping him focused. There were some subtle cracks in the veneer and every now and then it was clear something wasn't quite right, but the audience rolled with it, because when Glen dug in and played, he was there 100 percent. There were a few dropped lyrics here and there, and Campbell accidently started "Rhinestone Cowboy" a second time (hell, we would have gladly sat through it again), but overall the show was strong and dignified. He brought out his wife, and mother of his children, and presented her flowers as last night was their 30th wedding anniversary. I'm so glad I was there.
Campbell is to be lauded for his courage as he faces uncertainty with a smile and a wave. It was an honor to be there to wave back.