An on-screen photo of songwriter Jimmy Webb and musician Glen Campbell welcomes concertgoers to The Vogel in Red Bank, NJ this Sunday, May 7, 2023 afternoon for a musical tribute entitled Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years. One of the greatest songwriters of the past half century, Jimmy Webb composed tunes like “Up, Up and Away” for The Fifth Dimension and “The Worst That Could Happen” for The Brooklyn Bridge, but some of his most memorable hits — “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” and more — came about as a result of his musical affiliation with the legendary singer and musician Glen Campbell.
The lights dim and Jimmy Webb enters the stage, smiles, and takes a seat at the grand piano, telling the afternoon crowd how happy he is to see them, confessing, “You’re the reason I do this!”
Webb opens today’s concert with a heartfelt rendition of his 1969 composition for Glen Campbell, “Galveston.” As images of Western skies and sunsets flash on the big screen behind him, Webb’s piano accompaniment sounds like an entire orchestra as he sings, “Galveston, oh Galveston/I still hear your sea winds blowing,” gracefully interpreting the song and making listeners acutely aware of every lyric.
With his easygoing speaking manner, Webb tells the audience about writing “Galveston” during the Vietnam War before dedicating it to all of the veterans in the audience.
Recalling his own childhood in Elk City, Oklahoma, Webb talks about growing up as a church pianist. Insisting “a kid only needs one great teacher,” he credits his piano instructor, Susan Goddard, for showing him how to reharmonize music. He demonstrates this knowledge by playing a unique harmonic interpretation of “Amazing Grace” to enthusiastic applause.
Joking, “The first subversive device was the transistor radio,” Webb talks about how popular music changed his life, explaining that when he first heard Glen Campbell singing “Turn Around, Look at Me” on the radio, he decided he wanted to write songs for him. After crediting Motown Records in California with giving him a solid education in the music business, he reveals that a song he wrote at Motown for Paul Petersen of TV’s The Donna Reed Show was ultimately performed by “Secret Agent Man’s” Johnny Rivers and heard by Glen Campbell who wanted to record it.
The title? “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
Here, Webb plays the piano live as a video of Glen Campbell performing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” appears on the screen behind him. When Campbell croons, “By the time I get to Phoenix/She’ll be risin,” the audience is instantly transported back in time to 1967 when this debut Webb/Campbell musical collaboration first rose up the charts.
The crowd warmly applauds, and Webb talks about working with singers Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., who, along with their group, The Fifth Dimension, recorded his composition, “Up, Up and Away.” Insisting “This song is really about balloons!” — and not the drug culture of the 1960s — Webb performs the number and even invites the audience to join in on the “Up, up and away/In my beautiful, my beautiful balloon” chorus before recounting how the song won him his first Grammy for Song of the Year at the tender age of 19.
After explaining that Glen Campbell requested a follow-up song to “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” Webb performs his 1963 smash for Campbell, “Wichita Lineman.” As Webb sings and plays, the audience is treated to colorful visual imagery which enhances the song’s melody line, its harmonies, and it’s storied “I am a lineman for the county/And I drive the main road” lyric.
The audience whistles and cheers and Webb responds by performing one of Glen Campbell’s favorite Jimmy Webb songs, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Singing with passion and feeling as images of the moon and sky float on the screen behind him, Webb’s stunning piano accompaniment concludes with a coda featuring Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
Talking about how the country supergroup, The Highwaymen — Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson — recorded a song he’d written which was also done by Glen Campbell, Webb launches into another Grammy-winning number of his, “The Highwayman.” Powerful visual imagery appears on screen as Webb sings “I was a highwayman/Along the coach roads, I did ride/With sword and pistol by my side,” inspiring cheers and applause from the crowd.
Acknowledging “We were as close as brothers,” Webb discloses that when Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, “It wrecked me.” As a tribute to his longtime friend, Webb performs the pair’s 1969 hit, “Where’s the Playground Susie,” the song’s “Where’s the playground Susie?/You’re the one who’s supposed to know her way around” lyric touching hearts in the audience.
The crowd responds with avid applause as Webb launches into the beautiful and haunting piano introduction to one of his most recognized compositions, “MacArthur Park.”
Webb pours his heart out as he sings “MacArthur’s park is melting in the dark/All the sweet, green icing flowing down” on this contemporary musical masterpiece disguised as a pop song. Once the arrangement arrives at its famous “allegro” movement, the audience hears a full instrumental accompaniment as Glen Campbell appears on video shredding a wild rock guitar solo a la Eddie Van Halen. Concertgoers cheer and applaud as they leap to their feet for Webb who responds by stating, “I love you guys. Thank you so much. It’s so special of you to come out and humor me. You’re my lifeline.”
For an encore, Webb talks about leaving California to move East, asserting, “I’m so glad I’m here.” Dueting with Campbell on “Adios,” Campbell’s video-recorded voice and Webb’s live piano playing fill the Vogel theater with emotion as photos of the pair fill the screen. Ending by saying, “I love you, Glen,” Webb puts his hand to the heavens and then turns to the audience to say, “Thank you for coming out. God bless everybody!”
As audience members make their way out of The Vogel theater, we chat with several in the crowd who share their thoughts on this afternoon’s performance of Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years.
Acknowledges Lorraine from Hamilton, “Jimmy Webb made me cry with his beautiful last song, ‘Adios,’ in tribute to his friend, Glen Campbell,” adding, “He’s an awesome storyteller — I’ve seen him before and I’ll see him again.”
Caroline from Bradley Beach declares, “Jimmy Webb’s show today was an amazing tribute to Glen Campbell! I loved it, and it was especially beautiful the way Jimmy reminisced and performed along with the video of his friend.” Holly from Manasquan insists, “I loved Jimmy Webb’s tribute and all of the wonderful songs he performed today,” disclosing, “Glen Campbell was my first idol. I was even the president of his fan club.”
Whereas Tom from Philly calls Jimmy Webb: The Glen Campbell Years, “One fantastic show!” Lisa from Somerset, acknowledges, “I’ve been following Jimmy Webb’s music for years. He’s wonderful!” recalling, “My earliest memory is my dad singing ‘Up, Up and Away.’ Plus, I love his storytelling; I’ve seen him a bunch of times now.”
Musician Chris Pinnelli asserts, “For the past ten years, I’ve been listening to everything Jimmy Webb has written, so to get to see him in person was amazing. I really wanted to watch him play the piano, and he was outstanding!” His wife, Tara, concurs, adding, “He was amazing! I love how he integrated all of his stories with the music. The production was so beautifully done, I think it should be a Broadway show.”
Lastly, while Sue from Jenkintown, PA, considers Jimmy Webb, “Incredibly talented,” her husband, Bill, a long-time fan, jokes, “I’m an apostle for Jimmy Webb!” prior to concluding, “This show is something everyone should see — it’s just marvelous!”
To learn more about Jimmy Webb, please go to jimmywebb.com. For further info on upcoming programming at The Vogel — including Emily Grove’s Tribute to Joni Mitchell on July 1, Bob James on July 12, Aimee Mann on August 6, and Al Stewart on August 7 — please click on thebasie.org.
Spotlight Central. Your source for Jersey entertainment news and reviews
Love Imagery Fine Art Photography. all you need. peace/love/flower/power