Decked out in a sparkle-studded blue suit and matching boots, Glen Campbell gave Los Angeles one final performance befitting a real rhinestone cowboy during his farewell tour at the Hollywood Bowl June 24.
For most farewell tours, it’s a safe bet that the parting adjective is thrown in just to boost ticket sales, with future “farewell” tours sure to follow a year or two down the road. But for Glen, this was truly goodbye. He announced his battle with Alzheimer’s in 2011, and his final tour.
The first half of the night featured top names covering some of Glen’s most beloved session songs and lesser-known originals. Things were off to a rocky start as the first two acts delivered beguiling performances for what should have been a touching homage, apparently having got the party started a little too early backstage. My beloved Dandy Warhol, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, took on three classic Monkees and Beach Boys songs boasting Glen’s guitar work, which would have been fantastic choices had they not been wayyy out of his vocal range — an anomaly I initially attributed to strange amphitheater acoustics as I walked up the hill only to find him sounding worse as I approached my seat. Lucinda Williams didn’t fare much better, but the audience was busy enough enjoying snacks and wine to be bothered with the two lackluster opening sets. Conversely, Dawes, the L.A.-based backing band, impressively held it down, and things stepped up when Kris Kristofferson (though a touch off-key at times) delivered enjoyable renditions of “Highwayman” and “Just to Satisfy You.” Former Rilo-Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis shined with “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone” and was joined by surprise special guests the Watson Twins for “Just One of the Guys.” Then things really got kicking when Jackson Browne joined Lewis for a magical duet of “Let it Be Me” and then delivered his own Bowl-worthy performances with “I Know There’s an Answer” and his beautiful 1960s original “These Days,” principally known as recorded by Nico. Closing out the first half of the show, all guest artists joined onstage for a rousing rendition of Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas,” a tune that features a signature Glen guitar lick.
An air of reverence overcame the venue as Glen took to the stage. It was a touching family affair with three of his children – Ashley on banjo, Shannon on guitar, Cal on drums – joined him onstage. Opening with the gorgeous “Gentle On My Mind” and “Galveston,” the set was bittersweet as somber reminders of the reason behind this farewell tour crept up throughout the show. Between songs, Glen had to be reminded of what tune was next, and he had to be guided on and off stage by handlers. But his impeccable guitar playing could have fooled anyone that his mind was anything but bright and strong as it was in his heyday, and his childlike exuberance while performing each of his hits including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “True Grit” and “Lovesick Blues” made your heart swell.
Taking a short break, Glen opened the stage to his children who performed a few originals as Victoria Ghost, an impressive vocal-rich bluegrass band in its own right. Their father returned to perform his best of the best: the always tear-inducing “Wichita Lineman” and his biggest hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” The hour and a half long concert ended with a touching video montage of Glen with his family and musical colleagues throughout his incredible five-decade career to the tune of “A Better Place,” a most fitting end to a heartfelt evening.
– Linda Rapka