Six Decades of Humor & Hits: Kenny Rogers with the Nashville Symphony
When you grow up listening to an artist like Kenny Rogers — and count him as one of your first concerts — it’s a strange and wonderful thing to see him perform 35 years later.
After opening up with “Love or Something Like It” and “It’s a Beautiful Life,” replete with punchy horns and audience hoots, Rogers assured the crowd that those were the two loudest songs he knows. Then he laid down the classic country of “If You Want to Find Love” before heading into a medley of his ’80s crossover hits. Rogers introduced the medley by making a deal with a gent named Andy who, while sitting in the front row, didn’t seem like he wanted to be there. The star said he’d pay Andy $10 for every Rogers hit he could name, noting that blowing $120 or so didn’t bother him. What bothered him was that Andy was going to be so excited about country music after the show that he was going to go out and by a Garth Brooks album with his money.
The fun continued with “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” during which Rogers prompted the audience to sing the signature line, but they blew it time after time until, at the end, Rogers gave up with, “Never mind, I’ll do it myself.” Alternating between songs and stories, Rogers rolled out one familiar melody after another from his six-decade career — “Coward of the County,” “Daytime Friends,” “Something’s Burning,” “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and so many more — while doling out lines like “The older you get, the better you used to be” and a story about Dolly Parton stopping the session for “Old Friends” to tell him she could never sing at his funeral.
In a night full of great memories, both new and old, hearing “The Gambler” and “Lucille” back-to-back was one of the greatest. For their part, the Nashville Symphony offered lovely, unobtrusive support to the songs, helping render them in their fullest forms without overshadowing the performer or the performance. Closing out the set, “Lady” was ’80s orchestral perfection despite the fact that Rogers couldn’t belt it out like he used to and “Islands in the Stream” ended the night on the most upbeat note anyone could ask for as Rogers tossed tambourines out to the crowd, including a woman in a wheelchair who made her way down to the stage for the number.
At 76 years old, Rogers is still as entertaining as ever. Sure, his voice is not all there, but he more than makes up for it with his humor and hits.
At Schermerhorn Symphony Center on January 16, 2015
Love or Something Like It
It’s a Beautiful Life
If You Want to Find Love
Old Medley: Through the Years, You Decorated My Life, She Believes in Me
Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town
Coward of the County
Buy Me a Rose
Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
You Can’t Make Old Friends
Don’t Leave Me in the Night Time
We’ve Got Tonight
Have a Little Faith
Islands in the Stream