Review: Kenny Rogers at the Opera House

Kenny Rogers was joking around with Buddy, his new best friend in the front row at the Lexington Opera House, who he was tossing $10 bills for every song he remembered when Rogers played it.

The Gambler joked about buying fans, and then said Buddy, “is going to be so excited about country music, he’ll go out of here and buy a Garth Brooks CD with my money.”

Kenny Rogers performs at the Opera House in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, October 7, 2010. Photo by Matt Goins SEE MORE PHOTOS

Kenny Rogers performs at the Opera House in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, October 7, 2010. Photo by Matt Goins

Funny thing is, Kenny Rogers was something of a Garth Brooks of his era. Like Brooks, Rogers piled up a stack of hits and helped bring country music to an audience of people who never tuned their dials to country radio stations.

It would have been nice if Rogers showed a little more respect for that catalog of hits during his 23-song set Thursday night that clocked in at just over 90 minutes.

Rogers took the stage for the show that was part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival singing a couple lesser-known tunes including Love or Something Like It and engaged in a lot of stage patter, almost ribbing the crowd that had paid $79 to $99 each for tickets to a fault, before getting into the meat of his hit parade with Through the Years and You Decorated My Life.

At 72, he looked trim – chasing twin 6-year-old boys around may help – if a little stiff. His voice seemed to falter in some early numbers but gained strength during the show until he gave a nearly full-throated rendition of Lady that reminded listeners of the early 1980s and why this man was such a huge star.

It seems Rogers didn’t want people to leave saying he didn’t play their favorite song of his as he hit most of the high points in his catalog, including solo versions of some of his duets – We’ve Got Tonight , which he originally sang with Sheena Easton, and Islands in the Stream, which he and Dolly Parton made famous.

The disappointing thing was a lot of those hits were abbreviated, with dropped verses or bridges and abrupt endings. It was particularly annoying on Coward of the County, where the middle verses about Becky were omitted so the title character’s revenge on the Gatlin boys made no sense.

Those perfunctory renditions of several classics made what could have been a reflective trip down memory lane feel more like a K-tel album, with three-and-a-half minute hits trimmed so they could fit 20-plus tunes on a single vinyl album

Rogers was an amusing host, joshing with Buddy, giving a couple shout-outs to his friend, former Gov. John Y. Brown, and supporting a cheer to bring back his fast food franchise, Kenny Rogers Roasters.

What he missed was a chance to make sure Buddy wanted to pick up a Kenny Rogers CD.

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