Kenny Rogers recently underwent knee surgery — though he fears they replaced “the wrong knee”. Thus this towering giant of country music remained seated for much of the evening as he brought his victory lap tour (his last before retirement) to Dublin.
Rogers was here to reminisce as much as sing, with endless anecdotes about his early days as a doo-wop vocalist and, fronting the hippyish The First Edition, an unlikely protest rocker (yielding his early, drug-referencing smash ‘Just Dropped In’).
But the chatty tone seemed to upset one or two punters whose yells threatened to become boos. “Just let me do my show,” said Rogers, who duly leavened the anecdotes with forays into his hit parade.
A softly swaying ‘Lucille’ was spruced up with footage of Jim Henson’s Muppets on backing vocals (in the late 1970s, Rogers was practically an honorary member of the furry troupe); ‘We Are The World’ was accompanied by the original 1985 video, in which Rogers swayed tearfully alongside Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and the assembled great and good of the American music industry.
At 78 that old twinkling charisma endures. Rogers’ beard is entirely silver now but, on ‘Everytime Two Fools Collide’ and Dottie West’s ‘A Lesson In Leavin’, he effortlessly reached the high notes, his voice mixing dry wit and late-life ennui.
He was assisted here and elsewhere by Linda Davis, a salty Nashville crooner best known for ‘Does He Love You’, her 1993 collaboration with Reba McEntire (she is also the mother of Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott).
Their voices intertwined magnificently on ‘Islands In The Stream’, the Bee Gees-penned ballad that became in 1983 a mega hit for Rogers and Dolly Parton. As they eased towards the gloriously saccharine chorus, even the boozy hecklers had fallen silent.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved