Glen Campbell has had a tumultuous life and 47 year-old career, which, at a recently turned 74, sees him playing at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, supported by a predominantly young band that consists of three of his children.
Glen opens the evening’s proceedings with one of his most popular track, Gentle On My Mind, instantly engaging the audience and drawing them into the performance. Campbell’s brand of country, enriched with a heavy dose of easy listening, draws a cross section of people all eager to hear such classics as Galveston, Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman; and this veteran knows how to please. His relaxed attitude towards tonight’s show emphasises the longevity of his career and how he feels completely at home on stage, whilst disclosing anecdotes and willingly giving up the limelight to allow the other performers to showcase their talents.
The first half of the set includes fantastic tracks such as Galveston, Country Boy and Where’s the Playground Susie? Unfortunately, the levels for the vocal microphone don’t seem to be loud enough to truly demonstrate the smoothness of Campbell’s voice. However, this is rectified in time for a storming version of True Grit, which is enhanced by the magnificent drumming of Campbell’s son, Calvin, who also has to tell his dad where to put his capo to make sure that everyone is playing in the same key. After which, Glen leaves the stage to his daughter Debby who swept through Love’s Gonna Live Here Again. His younger daughter, Ashley, performing an admirable cover version of KT Tunstall’s Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, followed this. Both the daughters unite for a beautiful version of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide, which is well chosen as it illustrates the capabilities of their vocal talents. Campbell returns to the stage before the interval to perform Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.
The second section of the set starts with Try A Little Kindness, that has the audience clapping along and raring to see what gems Campbell is going to pull out the bag next. After a beautiful cover of the Foo Fighters’ Times Like These, a track that Glen makes his own bringing an alternative understanding of the emotions contained within the lyrics, he duets with Debby on a version of Cash’s Jackson. Campbell and Ashley engage in a guitar versus banjo duel that amuses the crowd greatly, which is swiftly followed by Postcards From Paris that leaves Campbell accompanied by a solitary keyboard. The set continues including a Tom Petty cover and Southern Nights, resulting in Campbell demonstrating his guitar skills with the William Tell overture, that sees a spritely Glen playing the guitar behind his head and reiterates how effortlessly his fingers can fly around the fretboard. This leads into the highlight of the evening, Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman, which for me is one of the greatest songs of all time, perfectly constructed in every way and delivered with such sensitivity that I get goose bumps. There is only one song to complete the set and that is Rhinestone Cowboy. Campbell returns to the stage to perform two new tracks, In My Arms and A Better Place, both of which exemplify Glen’s ability to create fantastic music.
The whole show was reminiscent of a 70’s family orientated television special, which was strangely comforting and made me wish it were Christmas; but this format truly demonstrated that this living legend has still got it.
Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Steve Gerrard