Last Friday Night: Glen Campbell At Arena Theatre
After reading Chris Gray's review of the last Glen Campbell show here in Houston back in September at the Stafford Centre, I was expecting the worst at Campbell's Friday night show at the Arena Theatre.
Photos By Barry Sigman
The country legend had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's a few months before the Stafford show, and had set out on a tour, complete with a brand new album of morose "end of the road" numbers, with his children as part of his backing band. Gray's review suitably conveyed the uncomfortable moments of watching a man whose memory was slowly deteriorating struggling through a live show, all the while still showing copious glimmers of the wit and musicianship he had displayed for decades.
I walked into the Arena Theatre on Friday night cringing, feeling like I was going to a somber going-away party, and also confused at how Campbell was back in town so quick, and still on a farewell tour at that. But nonetheless, I wanted to see Campbell one last time before he retreated into that sunset.
Campbell wasn't completely off his game, and he wasn't making mistakes at every turn. The whole evening reminding me spending an extended period of time with any elderly relative. My own grandmother sometimes forgets my name, and I have been in the family nearly thirty years. My great-grandmother's second husband had Alzheimer's late in his life and once engaged me in a conversation about my wife - my mother - and my newborn son - myself - so I have been around enough senior moments not to be bothered.
Imagine a radio antenna, tuning in and out of a station here and there. Maybe you get a good two or three minutes of a broadcast before it fades out for a bit, only to return clear and crisp. That was Friday night.
There were teleprompter screens onstage to assist Campbell on his songs, giving the evening a family reunion karaoke vibe. Sometimes he would laugh at the lyrics, as if they he couldn't believe that he had to sing the next verse. Before you scoff, remember that even Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford use prompters at this point, and those guys haven't gone public within any mental deficiency.
Opening with "Gentle On My Mind", Campbell was immediately met with a procession of autograph seekers near the lip of the Arena's revolving stage, distracting the man from his playing and singing, but he didn't seem bothered by the intrusions, though the venue's staff looked agitated. Was this a concert or a meet-and-greet that just happened to feature live music? Anyone who frequents the venue is used to seeing this and I think it's disrespectful quite honestly.