Rogers charms Cranbrook with festival of hits

Country music great Kenny Rogers plays Cranbrook, June 11

Kenny Rogers entertained the audience with hit after hit

Kenny Rogers entertained the audience with hit after hit

Barry Coulter

Kenny Rogers has the world at his feet, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

The country music great entertained 1,600 people at his Western Financial Place concert Wednesday night with a performance of five decades of hits, and he charmed them in between songs with his humorous, engaging patter. Most, but not all, of his jokes were at his own expense.

As an example, two songs in, Rogers stopped the show to examine the question of why women were keen to come to his show, while their husbands had to be dragged along. Interacting with one ‘Steve’ in the front rows, Rogers parsed this question, while tossing cash to Steve, from the stage, to get the answers he wanted. He then relaunched his concert with a revue of some of the most famous songs of recent decades.

But Kenny Rogers is no jukebox. “We Got Tonight,” “Daytime Friends (And Nighttime Lovers), “Coward of the County,” “Have A Little Faith In Me,” “Through The Years,” “The Greatest,” “If You Want To Find Love” … For a 75-year-old just off knee surgery, Rogers gave fresh, inspired renditions of his body of work, backed by a tight band that’s been with him for years.

He even gave a mini set of his ’60s band, the first edition, saying it was a chance for the audience to  experience an acid flashback without the acid — “Something’s Burning” and “Just Dropped In.” After finishing singing the latter song, Rogers recited a portion of its lyrics slowly, to give the post-’60s members of the audience a feel for the spirit of the ’60s. Quite funny, really.

Rogers also spoke about his great friend, Dolly Parton, and sang a song off his recent album he recorded as a duet with her — “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” Dolly’s voice on a backing track on the chorus brought her into the house.

Far from being a chestnut, Rogers’ performance of perhaps his greatest hit, “The Gambler,” came across as evergreen, stark and powerful. He sang the tear-jerker “Lucille,” with his tongue in cheek, chatting and joking with the audience between verses.

He finished off his show with “Lady,” and “Islands in the Stream.”

All in all, the great Kenny Rogers came and went, and it seems to be full-on summer in Cranbrook now.

Opening up for Rogers was Canadian country veteran and multiple Juno Award winner Charlie Major, who gave the audience a stripped down  acoustic set of his songs, and got the folks in a proper country mood.