Glen Campbell

In Concert [Video/DVD]

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A somewhat expanded version of Glen Campbell's 2001 PBS special, this DVD is a good representation of Campbell's concerts at their optimum, his core band supported by 70-odd members of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and recorded digitally. There's been no obvious sweetening of any of the sound, and Campbell is in excellent form instrumentally and good shape vocally, covering his best-known songs, including "Wichita Lineman," "Gentle on My Mind," "The Highway Man," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Southern Nights," "It's Only Make Believe," and "True Grit." The DVD also features as bonus tracks "MacArthur Park" (which he has done in concert regularly at least since the 1970s), "Let It Be Me," "Don't Pull Your Love/Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," "Time in a Bottle," and "Try a Little Kindness"; the only disadvantage is that these aren't integrated into the finished program, but accessible as part of the bonus materials on the menu. Campbell's rendition of "MacArthur Park" here is superior in virtuosity -- with a searing performance by Campbell on electric guitar -- to the version from the Capitol Records Essential, Vol. 2. He lacks some of the range that he had as a singer 30-plus years ago, but makes up for it with greater depth to his interpretations. "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" comes out better here than it does on Campbell's official recording from the early '70s, and "Galveston" may be the standout track, a song that plays better with age and also offers Campbell in a gorgeous electric guitar solo; his playing skills have faded not at all, and he turns in a virtuoso performance on acoustic guitar on "Classical Gas," as well as his high-speed 12-string-driven rendition of the "William Tell Overture." He and his daughter, Debbie, also duet on "Little Green Apples." There's not a lot of excitement here, but that was never what Campbell was about; even when he was roaring up the charts regularly between 1965 and 1978, his music was as focused on polished performance as visceral energy, and he's maintained the identical balance for 30-plus years. It is a little disconcerting (though not surprising) to this reviewer to look at the crowd shots, however, and realize that Campbell's audience has aged at a similar rate, with a 40-something median age and a significant number of 50-, 60-, and 70-year-olds in the seats and hardly anyone under 30 that this viewer could spot. The disc also contains a 20-minute-long behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary about the concert that includes interview segments with Campbell, rehearsal segments, and observations by the bandmembers and others; it is augmented by the presence of a very detailed onscreen biography of Campbell and a reasonably thorough discography. In other words, beyond the PBS broadcast version of the concert, there's at least an additional hour of material here for the purchaser, including 20 minutes of excellent music.