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Concert Reviews:
Kenny Rogers folds 'em in style at The Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Kenny Rogers dealt a winning hand for The Gambler's Last Stand on Thursday night, Dec. 8, at the Fox Theatre.

Rogers in the midst of a farewell tour -- which is coming just at the right time as evidenced by his vastly diminished vocals as well as knee replacement surgery that forced him to sing while seated much of the night. But he compensated with a charming and sentimental -- and at times comically grouchy -- show, spending a breezy 100 minutes reviewing a six-decade career that established Rogers as a genre and radio format-crossing icon with 120 million records sold worldwide.

Presenting 28 songs from a durable pop and country catalog -- including an eight-song segment of Christmas tunes, aided by the local Divine Child High School choir on half -- the 78-year-old Rogers told a story of a life lived well through music. With historic footage rolling on three video screens, Rogers, looking relaxed in a brown collared shirt and black slacks, started off with the First Edition's 1969 hit "Ruby, Don't Your Love To Town" and then went backwards. He played a bit of his first solo single, 1957's "That Crazy Feeling," then introduced his days with the Bobby Doyle Three jazz trio via "Workin' My Baby Back Home" and "It's Only a Paper Moon" -- the latter sung by his regular aide de camp Linda Davis, mother of Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott.

That set the tone for the rest of the show, as Rogers sang hits by the New Christy Minstrels and the First Edition, peppering them with stories and even poking fun at the latter's trippy lyrics of "Just Dropped In (To See What condition My Condition Was In)." ("They don't write songs like that anymore, do they?" he cracked.) Rogers also noted that he began performing Christmas shows at the Fox for 30 years, including three-week stands, as he accompanied "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" with fake snow from above the stage.

And he led the choir and audience through some choruses of the 1985 all-star famine relief song "We Are The World," accompanied by footage of the recording session.

For the show's final third Rogers ran through his cache of 80s and 90s smashes from movie soundtrack hits such as "Coward Of The County" and "Love Will Turn You Around" to the likes of "Lucille," "Lady," a spirited "Islands In The Stream" and, of course, "The Gambler." He proclaimed Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight," which Rogers recorded in 1983 with Sheena Easton, as his favorite duet of all time, and for "You Can't Make Old Friends" he presented a film that paid tribute not only to his musical pals and duet partners but also, in a classy gesture, to his longtime band and crew members.

Rogers flashed a bit of get-off-my-lawn sass in chiding the Fox crowd about his singing -- and in barb about disgraced entertainer Bill Cosby -- but mostly he was gracious and self-deprecating, enjoying a last encounter with his Detroit fans but clearly ready to end his long and successful run. He proclaimed that "I refuse to do a slow song as my last number" and went out in a defiant, gospel flavored "Blaze Of Glory," showing that The Gambler truly knows when to fold 'em, and cash in, with his dignity and legacy well-secured.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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