The Gambler’s Last Deal: Kenny Rogers Live Review | The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center, The Villages | January 20, 2017

by • February 2, 2017

If this tour is truly Kenny Rogers’ last go-round as he’s promised, then The Gambler is going out with less a triumphant shout and something more akin to a wink and whispered goodbye.

After 60 long years and an incredible 75 albums doing that musical voodoo he does so well, Kenny is showing his unending gratitude by handing over all he’s got left in the tank. Think of this final glimpse of his iconic white hair and matching beard as his victory lap, where the accompanying highlight reel could easily be six times longer.

Kenny Roger’s 90-minute concert at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center made for a lot of good-natured jokes and stories to go along with his songs. He had real heartfelt appreciation for a career filled with an incredible number of highs and few lows.

When he slowly arrived took to the stage singing “Lucille,” he soon let everyone know he’d had a knee replaced just days before and it hurt a lot. It meant he’d be sitting more than standing. He’d sometimes fade out of his own songs and appear to forget words to the music that made him a superstar. But his sold-out crowd was a congenial and forgiving one (not to mention largely near his age and older). They were ready, able and willing to fill in the occasional blank spaces by remembering and singing his songs for him.

Kenny stuck to his best-known tunes, with a couple of newer ones thrown in. That mean we heard and sang along to the likes of “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Lady,” “Love Lifted Me” and “Daytime Friends,” “Coward of the County,” and, yes, “The Gambler” as well.

Where Kenny may have lacked in vocal power, he made up for in a lot of storytelling. It was a one-man show and tell sort of performance, really. In one unexpectedly high moment, he sang a song dedicated to all the country singer greats who have sadly passed on as notable images of Johnny Cash, Dottie West, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Elvis Presley flashed behind him.

Joining him as a special guest was a woman named Linda Davis (mother to Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott). She had all the spunk and energy of a young Dolly Parton. Rather than get tacked on as an opener, she’d show up occasionally to trade verses with the man of the hour, both singing his songs by herself and along with him. As the only other true singer to share the spotlight, hers was a continually bright (and welcomed) part of the evening.

It is a little sad to consider Kenny Rogers is closing this chapter. His discography plays a massive part of so many memories all over the world. Still, he’s got to be quite proud for all he’s accomplished. Spin his record of greatest hits or dip into his albums with The First Edition and they reveal storytelling magic. His penchant for musical tales feels like it’s going by the wayside.

But let’s sidestep the sentimentality, shall we? It’s not the worst thing to take a rest. If anything, Kenny’s earned himself the right.

Kenny Rogers Live Review by Dainon.

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