The Rhinestone Cowboy has left the building.diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Unlike most of his recent gigs, Sunday's opened with a lengthy tribute from some of Campbell's famous friends, including Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams and Kris Kristofferson. The all-star lineup echoed that of last year's Ghost on the Canvas, which featured collaborations with Billy Corgan and Chris Isaak, as well as songs written by Paul Westerberg and Jakob Dylan.
Despite the presence of such high-wattage guests, Campbell, 76, earned the crowd's biggest response in an hour-long set that combined his old countrypolitan classics with stuff from Ghost on the Canvas. Sometimes the cheers rewarded Campbell's still-strong singing or his tasty guitar solos on "Gentle on My Mind" and "Wichita Lineman"; on "Lovesick Blues" (originally popularized by Hank Williams) he showed off a yodel as true-blue as it might've been in the early Sixties. At other points, though, Campbell's fans were responding to the almost unbearable poignancy of a man delivering time-worn lyrics heavy with new meaning, as when he admitted, "I am so afraid of dying," in "Galveston."
Campbell's current live band includes three of his children – Ashley on banjo, Shannon on guitar, Cal on drums – and they helped steer the singer through last night's show. Ashley stepped out front for a cutesy duet with her dad on "Dueling Banjos," and she and Shannon did one of their own songs while Campbell took a breather. But he went without their support for "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress," a lesser-known gem from his long-running partnership with songwriter Jimmy Webb: As he sang accompanied only by keyboardist T.J. Kuenster, Campbell seemed to be soaking up as much of the evening as he could.
That appeared to be the case as well for Dawes, the young L.A. roots-rock crew that made its Hollywood Bowl debut eagerly backing Campbell's various admirers in the first half of the program. Mindful of the headlining performance to come, the guests avoided Campbell's biggest hits, gravitating instead to early tunes like "Turn Around, Look at Me" (which Williams said she remembered hearing in an early-Sixties Kodak commercial) and to the pop hits Campbell played on as a session musician with L.A.'s insanely prolific Wrecking Crew. Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols sang the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville," while Browne took on "I Know There's an Answer," from the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.
Kristofferson growled his way through "Just to Satisfy You," the Waylon Jennings tune Campbell once covered. He also did Webb's "Highwayman," which Campbell recorded before Kristofferson, Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash revived it with their supergroup, the Highwaymen. Jenny Lewis turned up too, to sing "She's Gone, Gone, Gone" and to duet with Browne on "Let It Be Me," from Campbell's 1968 album with Bobbie Gentry. And before an intermission the entire cast assembled for Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas," another Wrecking Crew showcase Browne punctuated last night with a fitting exclamation: "Viva Glen Campbell!"
- Kris Kristofferson