Last year, Glen Campbell’s wife announced that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease…and Glen immediately announced that he was going to give a farewell tour. There were probably several reasons for the announcement. For one thing, Glen probably looked at the diagnosis as the end of his career, and he wanted to hit the road one more time. More likely, not being a major songwriter, he probably also looked at it as one last opportunity to make some cash to take him into retirement.
When the announcement was made, my friend Melodie and I decided that we had to go. Fortunately, we soon found out that we wouldn’t have to travel far…Glen was coming to Bloomington. We got tickets, and anxiously anticipated the show.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After all, Glen had played with some of the best musicians in the business, including what is known as the “wrecking crew,” a group of the hottest LA session musicians who played on everything from Dean Martin tunes to Beach Boys classics to Phil Spector legends. Who would he have with him?
Not long after he took the stage, we found out that the majority of his band were his kids, two sons and a daughter. That was good for Glen. Although he gave a pretty good performance (his guitar playing was still astounding, and his vocals were still pretty good, although he needed help with lyrics from teleprompters), it was easy to tell that Alzheimer’s Disease was already starting to take it’s toll on Glen Campbell. He seemed confused at times, needed a little coaching from kids occasionally, and was obsessed with the sound of his monitors, to the point where you felt a little embarrassed for him at some points.
All that being said, I’m glad I went. The man is a music legend, and opportunities to see a legend don’t come around that often.
Still, it was a little awkward at times. And it made me think of some of the other awkward moments that I’ve experienced from years of concert-going:
Johnny Cash – 1997: It was that year that Cash was diagnosed with Shy-Drager Syndrome, a form of multiple sympton atrophy(look it up). So when it was announced that he was coming to Champaign, I got tickets immediately. Again, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. He brought his delightful wife, June Carter, with him, as well as his son and daughter, and overall sounded pretty good. He was coughing a lot, and perhaps was experiencing some weight loss because he kept having to hike his pants up between songs. At one point, after talking with the band, he started a song and stopped it after one verse. He explained to the audience that his throat was hurting, and they thought they could do the song in a lower key, but it didn’t work, so they were going to start it again. At that point, someone in the audience yelled something about him smoking a joint. Cash responded nicely at first, but you could tell it bothered him. Finally Cash said, “Yell something again and I’ll have you thrown out.” Everyone cheered, but it was an awkward moment. All that being said, the toughest part of the evening had to be listening to his son and daughter (hmm, where are they now?).
Greg Kihn – 1985: The Greg Kihn Band, who had success with “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy” had broken up, and Greg was on the road doing a solo tour. He wasn’t exactly playing arenas…he was at the Scottish Rite Temple, which seated about 500 people. My friend, Scott, introduced him onstage, then came up and sat with me. It was obvious that Greg was pretty messed up…slurred speech, hanging on the mike stand, maybe even a bit of drool. Scott confirmed my suspicions. Here was his account: “These guys got into town about lunchtime, and sat at House of Hunan drinking sake all afternoon. Backstage, while going over the set list, he was smoking a joint the size of a Lincoln cigar, then did three quick lines of coke before going onstage. I’m surprised he can even stand.” That kind of summed up Kihn’s solo career, so now he’s doing what every washed-up rock star does…he has a radio show!
Eddie Money – 2011: I did not seek out Eddie Money…he happened to be on a bill with Styx, and I love Styx in concert, so I sat through Money’s set. It was the third time I had seen him, and the funny thing is, I never ever WANTED to see Eddie Money. The first time, I took my girlfriend to see him at the state fair. He was trashed. The second time, the radio station that I worked at brought him in for a show, and I was the stage manager. I thought he was kind of a dick. The 2011 show was awkward from the point of just plain being embarrassed for him. He lumbered around on stage like Lurch from the Addams Family, although I think Ted Cassidy would have sounded better. It kind of hurt to watch it.
Bruce Springsteen – 1996: I have never been much of a Springsteen fan (until recently…I get it now), but always heard that “even if you’re not a fan, you HAVE to see Springsteen in concert!” I’m sure the “Ghost of Tom Joad” tour was not what those diehard fans had in mind, but it was a chance for me to finally see the Boss, so I went. It was just Bruce and his acoustic. I usually like intimate shows like this, but I slept through most of this one. It just plain sucked. Fans were yelling things from the audience, hoping to hear an acoustic version of a Springsteen classic, but those yells were totally ignored by Springsteen, except occasionally when he would mutter “eh, shut-up” to the yellers. He was actually booed. Again, I wasn’t a big fan at the time, but I couldn’t believe that an artist of his stature was being booed.
Ever experienced an awkward moment at a concert? Please relate. I’m sure I’ll have more. After all, my buddy John and I have set a goal to see both Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis this year.