EmptyVenue: The Troubadour, West Hollywood (Tuesday, Aug. 19)
Glen Campbell covering Green Day and Foo Fighters?
The inevitable first reaction to news that the pop cowboy is doing an album of covers by those bands and others including U2 and the Velvet Underground is, "Uh-oh, is this the long-dreaded recurrence of Pat Boone’s metal mood?" The second might be, "Then again, Johnny Cash pulled it off late in his career."
While clearly aiming at the latter, Campbell's effort falls somewhere between those extremes. "Meet Glen Campbell" -- a deft title for the reintroduction of a man who's made 70-plus albums -- is a crisp, enjoyable record that stamps vintage Campbell-type arrangements on songs with recurring themes of aging or self-realization. There's no cheeky cheese like Boone churned out.
But Campbell and producer Julian Raymond, who picked the songs, seem content to let the musicians do too much of the interpreting. And Tuesday's packed show at the tiny, sweaty Troubadour, which coincided with the album's release, exacerbated that. In the intimate live setting, the eight-piece band, including two drummers, forced the attention to the music rather than Campbell and that honey-dipped voice.
The result was an entirely pleasant hourlong show but one that felt like a missed opportunity.
"Yep, still kicking," the 72-year-old said before playing Tom Petty's "Angel Dream," which was both countrified and rocked up, driven by a little snare hook. Campbell introduced Travis' "Sing" as "one of my favorite songs." He expressed similar admiration for many of the covers during the show, but though he performed them with a smile, he rarely seemed genuinely affected by them.
An exception was the Replacements' "Sadly, Beautiful," a father's lament that Campbell sang with purpose. Two of his sons were in the band, and two daughters sang backup.
Campbell picked up a guitar only when he played his country-pop classics, five of which were scattered throughout the set. He closed his eyes to deliver "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and earned a long ovation after "Wichita Lineman." Stripped of their generic orchestration -- which clouded some of his most popular material more than driving it -- both were moving reminders of how affecting Campbell's vocals can be.
It was a rare chance to see an icon up close, and his voice has retained its much of its singular purity. But less instrumentation and more Campbell might have made it truly unforgettable.
All I Want Is You
By the Time I Get to Phoenix
Gentle on My Mind
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)
Grow Old With Me
Times Like These