Glen Campbell came to say goodbye.
More than anything else, it was a privilege to be there to hear it.
The 76-year-old country music crooner, who became a massive crossover star in the '60s and '70s with such hits as "Wichita Lineman" and "Rhinestone Cowboy," announced last year that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and was retiring from the road.
His self-proclaimed Goodbye Tour, which included a stop at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February, finally made its way to the Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Wednesday.
It was a night that Bay Area fans had long anticipated -- and dreaded. On one hand, it was important to show up and thank the man who had given so much to their lives over the years -- both in song and on TV, in the popular CBS variety show "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour." On the other hand, how does one say farewell to a legend?
In Saratoga, it started with a standing ovation at the sight of Campbell and his six-piece band -- which includes three of his eight children -- taking the stage. It continued with a heartfelt cheer as the crowd recognized the first number -- "Gentle on My Mind," the John Hartford gem that earned Campbell a Grammy in 1968.
Basically, the shower of appreciation and admiration continued throughout the night. Some were earned on the spot -- such as when Campbell delivered a tasty little guitar lead midway through "Gentle on My Mind," letting everyone know upfront that
It was, as expected, an incredibly emotional night. Yet, it was possible -- for an occasional instant or two -- to lose sight of the significance of the evening and simply enjoy the music. Those moments were driven, just like many of Campbell's best recordings, by the lyrics.
Campbell, of course, is the greatest interpreter of the Jimmy Webb songbook. There's just something about his clear, concise delivery, even today, that really makes Webb's words resonate in the heart. Campbell's roughly one-hour show in Saratoga was filled with Webb gems, including "Where's the Playground Susie," "The Moon's a Harsh Mistress" and "Galveston."
His version of Webb's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" -- a tune Frank Sinatra reportedly once called "the greatest torch song ever written" -- was absolutely divine. The first lyric, which sets the stage for this sad leaving-home saga, delivers such a delicious play on words that it's worth repeating, "By the time I get to Phoenix, she'll be rising."
That song was topped only by another Webb beauty, the immortal "Wichita Lineman." That song, which I haven't really thought much about in years, was absolutely arresting on this night. Its oft-quoted line -- "And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time" -- now stands as my nominee for most romantic lyric in history.
Backed by his utterly supportive family-infused band, Campbell was fairly strong on vocals throughout the evening. He used a teleprompter and flubbed a few lines here and there -- only once, however, where it had a real effect on the show. He did a fine enough job with the new material, from last year's critically acclaimed "Ghost on the Canvas," and was even better with the classics.
He gave his all. One more time. One last time. And it was both heartwarming and heart-wrenching to watch him on his final tour.
I'm glad I was there. Thank you, Mr. Campbell, and goodbye.
To see a slide show of Glen Campbell's concert, go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.