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Glen Campbell says goodbye at Chastain; Kenny Rogers entertains

Glen Campbell frequently chatted and laughed with the Chastain crowd. Photo credit: Max Blau

Glen Campbell frequently chatted and laughed with the Chastain crowd. Photo credit: Max Blau

Glen Campbell had barely been escorted to the front of the stage when the crowd leapt up in a pre-concert ovation.

It was a deserved gush of goodwill, a message from the Chastain Park Amphitheatre crowd that even if Campbell stumbled during his hour-ish set, it would be understood.

The country music legend is in the midst of a poignant “Goodbye Tour,” an outing prompted by his disclosure last year that he’s suffering from Alzheimer’s disease as well as a graceful exit from an extraordinary career.

Campbell, 76, relied heavily on a trio of TelePrompTers arranged at the foot of the stage, and sometimes stopped playing his guitar mid-riff, as happened during “Galveston.” But in between were many lighthearted jokes about memory loss and much hearty chuckling from Campbell, who looked happy and sounded strong.

Backed by a six-piece band including daughter Ashley on banjo and keyboard and sons Cal and Shannon on drums and guitar, respectively, Campbell revisited many of his famous collaborations with Jimmy Webb – “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and “Didn’t We” among them – showcasing his tremendous ability to craft greatness out of others’ compositions.

Though Campbell occasionally veered off script, at one point unbuttoning his shirt almost completely and grinning, “It’s hot out here on the porch, ain’t it?”, the band fluidly rolled through the set list to help him stay focused.

While his familiar tenor strained on some higher notes, this wasn’t a show about perfection. Nor was it one of pity, no matter how difficult it was at times to watch Campbell perform, knowing that the memory-robbing disease will only continue to gnaw at his talents.

His musicianship might be slightly diminished, but his legacy remains intact.

Campbell appeared proud to be sharing the stage with his kids – “my baby girl,” he called Ashley after the twosome bulldozed through “Dueling Banjos,” Campbell’s guitar picking a flawless run after a rough start.

Fans of Campbell, whose resume includes a stint with the Beach Boys in the early ‘60s – filling in for Brian Wilson on tour – to playing on Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” to hosting “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” variety show in the ‘60s and ‘70s, obviously wanted to hear his most cherished hits one final time.

Three of Campbell's kids, including Shannon on guitar and Ashley on banjo, are playing with him on this tour. Photo credit: Max Blau

Three of Campbell's kids, including Shannon on guitar and Ashley on banjo, are playing with him on this tour. Photo credit: Max Blau

There was the elegant “Wichita Lineman,” on which Campbell dashed off a fleet-fingered guitar run mid-song, and the fun sing-alongs “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.”

But Campbell also nodded to the present with a few songs from last year’s excellent “Ghost on the Canvas” release – his 61st (!!) studio album.

“It’s Your Amazing Grace” is a marvelous country-pop tune with a killer chorus. But it was the set-closing “A Better Place,” with its haunting lyrics, that prompted misty eyes.

“Some days I’m so confused, Lord. My past gets in my way,” Campbell sang off the TelePrompTer.

Then, with a towel draped over his shoulders and a guiding hand from Ashley, Campbell gave a final wave over his shoulder as he headed into the backstage darkness.

Sharing the bill with Campbell on this date, which filled about half of Chastain, was fellow country ace Kenny Rogers.

The Georgia resident is a bit frozen-faced these days, and his warm rasp of a voice strained against some notes he can no longer reach. But what Rogers sometimes lacked in the supple vocal department, he more than compensated for with his genuine crowd interaction.

Clad in jeans and a light blue button-down shirt, quickly sweat-soaked thanks to the stifling humidity, Rogers, who turns 74 next month, was a cheerful and very, very funny host.

Whether teasing an audience member sitting close to the stage for using binoculars (“What are you trying to see, for God’s sake?”) or zeroing in on an along-for-the-ride husband, tossing $10 bills at the guy after every hit performed (the final tally was fuzzy, but lucrative), Rogers spent as much time talking to the crowd during his 75-minute set as his did singing.

Kenny Rogers was an amiable, funny host as he performed hits from his 50 years in the music business. Photo credit: Max Blau

Kenny Rogers was an amiable, funny host as he performed hits from his 50 years in the music business. Photo credit: Max Blau

But, considering he’s celebrating 50 years in the music industry, there was no shortage of hits.

A cluster of sentimental ballads, “Through the Years,” “You Decorated My Life” and “She Believes in Me,” received the medley treatment from Rogers and his eight-piece band, while “Ruby” prompted the singer to jokingly chastise the crowd for its lackluster participation.

Rogers got personal when a video screen was rolled out to show family photos of his twin 8-year-old sons, Justin and Jordan, as he sat on a stool to croon “To Me.”

The boys and Rogers’ wife, Wanda, then briefly came onstage, just long enough for one of the kids to divulge their birthday plans and for the pair to warble a few lines of “The Gambler.”

A highlight came when Rogers returned to the video reel to sing along to footage from his 1967 band, The First Edition, a prog-psychedelic rock band that scored a hit with “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Rogers delighted in mocking the song’s ridiculous lyrics – much as he also did toward the end of the show when discussing the charade of encores (he no longer leaves the stage, pretending that he might not return).

Fans clicked into participation mode for the last chunk of the show, singing the famous lines of “The Gambler,” swaying to the clip-clopping “Lucille” and pretending they were Dolly Parton for a pumped-up “Islands in the Stream.”

Maybe Rogers isn’t as potent a singer anymore, but he hasn’t lost his touch as an entertainer.

(Check out more photos from Saturday’s show in our gallery.)

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

19 comments Add your comment

Roger McCook

July 15th, 2012
10:25 am

Thanks for writing the article. Well done. We went and enjoyed it very much. We are long-term Glen fans and like him despite him being less than perfect, but he never was you know. Kenny Rogers actually made me like him a little, something I was not expecting.

peggy inman

July 15th, 2012
10:34 am

Enter your comments here

peggy inman

July 15th, 2012
10:37 am

A great performance by a musical icon/ legend. I have loved Glen for over 45 years. God Bless Glen Campbell!!

Fred ™

July 15th, 2012
11:10 am

While never a huge fan of his I always could appreciate his mellow tone. As I grew older my appreciation of Glen grew as his songs became more nostalgic. I wish I had been there. You had a great run Glen.

Same with Kenny Rodgers. Too mellow for my (at the time) hard rock tastes but still so good that you had to appreciate him, even when he killed a great Bob Seger tune lol.

Cecil

July 15th, 2012
11:29 am

Two very classy and appreciative icons. It was a great show!

Joy

July 15th, 2012
1:12 pm

Glen Campbell gave a great concert at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee on July 13th. Would have loved to have Kenny Rogers there but – hey – we had air conditioning.

Charlie Jones

July 15th, 2012
6:52 pm

My wife & I saw the concert & THOUROUGHLY enjoyed it. Brought back many old memories.What a superb review, Melissa.

Charlie Jones

July 15th, 2012
6:54 pm

OOPS! I do know how to spell thoroughly.

Boo Kenny

July 15th, 2012
9:55 pm

So Kenny Rogers thinks it’s ok to make fun of Mickey Newbury’s masterpiece song. Some things may or may not improve with age,the song is a fine artifact of a unique time, so it has improved. What hasn’t improved? Just look at Kenny’s face. And his career. Uggh….

Bill

July 15th, 2012
11:23 pm

Wasn’t expecting much….but was totally entertained. This was one of chastains finest nights. Both performers showed why they have enjoyed such long careers. Very thankful to have seen the show.

Randy

July 16th, 2012
2:06 am

Thank you for giving such a genuine and heartfelt review.

Jimmy

July 16th, 2012
2:36 pm

Definitely exceeded my expectations as I pretty much grew up with these guys in the 60’s and 70’s though I do have a more hard rock taste. Glen Campbell’s performance was as heroic as any I’ve ever seen as you couldn’t help tearing up every now and then knowing what he struggles with (as did my mom). Kenny Rogers is “the entertainer” and never disappoints. Great to hear all the hits and the personal stories. My only wish would have been for Glen and Kenny to sing a song or two together as each has done with other partners “through the years”. BTW, KR, it didn’t rain!!!

Liz

July 16th, 2012
4:17 pm

Glen Campbell’s performance was indeed heroic — I was so stunned. I’m only in my mid-30s, so missed his hey-day — but he proved on Saturday night why he’s a legend. I thought his voice outshone Kenny’s 3:1 (and I went to the show to see Kenny!)…and I did cry a few times at some of Glen’s more heart-wrenching songs, knowing what he and his family face every day. My family has gone through a great deal with family members and Alzheimer’s — Glen inspired me on Saturday and should serve as a reminder to all of us in this country that we need to fund strong research to combat the disease and find a cure. I’m so glad he sang, I’m so glad I went, and I’m so glad for the memory of that special event. May God bless him and his family — there are much tougher times ahead, but at least his family knows first-hand the impact he has on people who hear his songs. That will sustain them for a long time to come.

Martha

July 16th, 2012
5:04 pm

simply wonderful! Glen has such high spirit and it woudln’t have mattered if he just sat there and played unplugged and talked, he was wonderful to see. And meeting his “baby girl” and son’s was an added plus! AND KENNY! OMG! he was great! what a jokester! I wasn’t planning on staying to see him as I mainly came for Glen but Kenny put a great show on. He has great showmanship, very personable and can still sing! Good show, highly recommended.

TRUE GRIT

July 16th, 2012
5:13 pm

The drunkard adulterous Campbell no longer has to use his alky past to explain why he can’t finish a song.

David Ockerby

July 17th, 2012
1:15 am

Two fine entertainers on the same stage, a reflection of what used to be, that old intruder “age” getting in the way, Glenn Campbell, one of the most talented artistes of any generation, cruelly ravaged by alzheimers, still had enough to hold it together and deliver his hits to a more than appreciative audience, this was goodbye, to a career spanning almost six decades, where he has stood alongside many of the greats, and he is one of them, it is easy to forget the musical legacy Mr Campbell leaves behind, in an age where artistes come and go in the blink of an eye, but this is everlasting, his musical canvas has the brushstrokes of a master artist, what a shame the end has come all too soon. Kenny Rogers, the warm tones of his voice still remain, but like Campbell, it appears time has caught up with him, he is fun, warm and friendly, but looked tired, trying to draw the last drops of his own successful career, he does it well, and the audience warm to him. He too will soon bow out of the limelight, and another star diminishes, where all that will be left will be sentiment and memories, but they will never be forgotten.

David Ockerby

July 17th, 2012
1:23 am

True Grit

your comments are very spiteful, yes, Glenn Campbell has had his troubles, what right do you have to talk about that, what have you achieved, this forum was to offer a critique about his performance, and whilst it is your right to offer a view, it serves no purpose to insult my intelligence with that garbage, and also disrespect Glenn Campbell that way, I am sure he doesn’t need reminding of past misdemeanours, this is about the music of a man, ravaged by a cruel illness, but still has the courage to face an audience and entertain them. Engage brain, before opening mouth.

alex

July 17th, 2012
1:34 pm

I saw Glen Campbell in San Antonio Tx. Kenny was not on the bill but I would have enjoyed his show as well. Most people don’t know about the infinite number of recordings that Glen has appeared on since his career started in the 60’s. For years he was a highly sought after session musician in Los Angeles before he became a solo star. His guitar playing, voice and natural charm endeared him to generations of music lovers. He is an American legend, and a tough one too. Glen did very well during his San Antonio show. A few flubs here and there didn’t diminish the beauty and grace of his performance. It was a poignant evening for the audience and a victorious evening for Glen. I am so glad I was at the show. Just amazing!

Mark

July 19th, 2012
10:20 pm

I was 11 when the Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour came on CBS….My parents loved him & in those days , children had to watch what the parents liked…So, I guess he has been a part of 90% of my life…It was a thrill to see him on the stage…I thought he was great ! Even when he had to change shirts…This was a show I will never forget….