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Kenny Rogers gives the people what they want

San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, Highland, Cal., January 12, 2006

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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It's easy to come to the conclusion, especially after watching Kenny Rogers sing for an hour-and-a-half, that this man is one well-seasoned performer. Although his scratchy voice is distinctive, Rogers is by no means - nor has he ever been - a knockout vocalist. The his credit, though, Rogers just looks so darn comfortable on stage; as if he's been there his whole life.

Rogers has had gray hair since long before anybody can remember, so it's difficult to decisively say if he looks like he's aged at all. The hair is still long, though, and it's also still sharply groomed. Tonight he was dressed in dark slacks and an un-tucked white dress shirt. Rogers, the concert pro, immediately made eye contact with an audience member named Tony. He then publicly made an agreement with Tony that each time this lucky guy recognized a Rogers hit, Kenny would throw him a 10-spot. And being that this was a hit-filled night, Tony earned himself around $100 before the night was over. If that's not easy money...

Tony's payola package included old ones, like "Ruby," as well as newer numbers, such as "Buy Me A Rose." When Rogers got to "The Gambler" in his set, this performance was augmented with a video montage from the various "Gambler" movies - there were five such films in all, just in case you're keeping score. He even threatened a sixth one, and supported this suggestion by showing a comical cinematic bit that starred the wiry-haired Coolio in the clip.

It was especially nice to also hear a few new Rogers's songs tonight, too. One of these, "The Last Ten Years (Superman)," chronicles the many major changes that have taken place in the world within the past decade. It comes from his soon to be released "Water And Bridges" disc.

Rogers closed with encores of "Lady" and "Islands In The Stream," which are certainly not his best songs. But then again, professional entertainers are all about giving the people what they want anyhow, right?

Rogers could very well have crammed all of his multiple hits into one big medley, one supposes, but that would have given Tony far too much gambling money, and it also might have made the show seem rushed.

Instead, Rogers took his time, talked a lot with the audience (even scolding the sections that sang badly) and just made sure he was ever the good host. So Tony left with a thicker wallet, and the rest of this crowd walked out with fond memories of a satisfying show.