Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rhinestone Cowboy shines


CHEROKEE, N.C. -- The Rhinestone Cowboy has still got it!

Glen Campbell, country crooner of yesteryear, played to a full ballroom at Harrah's last night. He's no spring chicken anymore, so I wondered how "Wichita Lineman" would sound from a 73 year old.

Turns out it sounded just fine.

Sporting a black shirt and a blue sports coat, and picking two different blue guitars (an electric and a 12-string), Campbell weaved his way back through the years. One by one they came, all those Jimmy Webb hits -- "Galveston," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Dreams of the Everyday Housewife."

Glen doesn't have his high register anymore (don't forget he was once a Beach Boy), but I thought his voice sounded stronger than it was when I saw him a decade ago. He looks like he's in great shape, plastic surgery not withstanding.

Allison Harned nearly had to restrain her husband Dean when Glen sang the theme song to the John Wayne film "True Grit." Glen, you may remember, was Duke's co-star.

"Glen Campbell represents a simpler time," Dean said. "He's one of the last links to that period."

The Harneds loved the fact that we were the youngest people in the room by at least 30 years. What can I say? Guess I never was meant for glitter, rock and roll.

Glen threw in a few surprises. He sang a nice cover of Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues." His daughter, Debbie, sang the classic "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" and father and daughter teamed up for the Johnny Cash/June Carter classic "Jackson" and "Let it Be Me," the hit Glen once had with Bobbie Gentry.

You may not know it, but Glen Campbell is a virtuoso on the guitar. He was a session player in Los Angeles before racking up all those hits. He even played guitar on Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night."

Last night, he strutted his stuff on the Mason Williams instrumental "Classical Gas" and "The William Tell Overture," even playing part of the latter over his back.

It would have been perfect had the Harrah's sound crew known what they were doing. Several times, Campbell had to step away from the front monitors because of a bad sound mix. Several times he asked -- into the mic -- for the bass to be turned down.

The other damper was bad management at the casino buffet. We got in line to eat at 7, figuring that we would be finished by 8 or 8:30, then get seated in the ballroom by 9.

Nope.

We waited for an hour and 15 minutes just to get a table. And it took an act of Congress to get a refill of sweet tea.

The good news is the food was delicious. Prime rib. All you can eat seafood. Yum, yum. Even if we did have to eat it fast.

Harrah's Cherokee is in the process of expanding. Here's hoping that means such mistakes are eradicated. It almost ruined my day off.

But, we were there to see the Rhinestone Cowboy, and as always, he sang as bright as a star-spangled rodeo.

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