The question of the night, “how do you squeeze 50 years of music in one concert?” It isn’t easy, but Kenny Rogers gave it his best shot and the result was one of the most entertaining nights of country music.

The question of the night, “how do you squeeze 50 years of music in one concert?” It isn’t easy, but Kenny Rogers gave it his best shot and the result was one of the most entertaining nights of country music.

The decades of Kenny Rogers’ life and music were presented through both on-screen clips (including clips of his Gambler movies), his audience banter and his music. The result was a multi-dimensional show that proves there are people that never lose their touch to give an audience exactly what that audience wants. A gifted singer, songwriter, photographer and actor, Kenny Rogers has done it all with grace and professionalism.

From the early days of the New Christy Minstrels to his career as Kenny Rogers and The First Edition to his country/pop years of classic duets with Dolly Parton, Dottie West, Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton (“We’ve Got Tonight”) Kenny presented his audience a sampling of the many hits that made him a legend in his own time.

Many times you can experience a show where an artist talks as much as they sing and walk away wishing there would have been more singing. With Kenny Rogers, his gift to connect with his audience in a “conversational” way is as much a part of the entertainment as his music. It left the audience with a feeling of being in their own living room with Kenny as they laughed, joked, sang and participated.

Musically he brought from each era the favorites. From the First Edition days he gave the audience, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and quipped over the lyrics, which he quoted and laughed at with the audience saying, “they just don’t write songs like that anymore!” That era also brought the crowd favorite, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” The First Edition made both pop and country music history in the late 60s and early 70s.

In the late 70s into the 80s his solo career spawned the mega-hits, “Lucille,” “Coward of the County,” and “Lady” (written by Lionel Richie).

His collaboration with Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees for his album “Eyes That See in The Dark” produced his duet with Dolly Parton “Islands in the Stream.” This song hit the Billboard Top 100 at No. 1 and was the last country single to reach the No. 1 on that chart until “Amazed” by Lonestar did in 2000. (Look for more Kenny and Dolly collaboration in 2010.)

He wound musically through the years with the 1999 hit, “The Greatest,” (penned by “The Gambler” writer – legendary Don Schlitz) that gives us all hope through a young child’s viewpoint. “Buy Me A Rose,” the love song from 2000 brought us into this decade where Kenny continues to make music.

It wouldn’t even seem appropriate to try and tell all of Kenny’s stories the audience was gifted with at this show for several reasons. First, they would never be as good put down in this article as Kenny telling them (one of those, you had to be there things) and second, you really should catch his show to enjoy his stories. It would be like divulging the ending to a good book or movie.

Kenny shared a secret that he had the lighting modified so he could see the audience in the front rows. He explained he never understood why an artist would want that area dark where you couldn’t even see who (if anyone) was out there. This just set the scene for that “in your living room” feel of the show.

Another warm and fuzzy part of the show was his family scrapbook on screen showing his young twin boys as he performed, “To Me.”

One of audience participation highlights was the unknown gentleman (would he please come forward) who walked away with a pocket full of Kenny’s ten-dollar bills. Kenny teased him about whether or not he came willingly to the show and was really a fan. He asked him to name as many of his hits as he could and Kenny promised a ten dollar bill for each hit he named. Then Kenny said that as he performed each hit he had not named he would give the gentleman yet another ten dollar bill. At the end they shook hands and that gentleman will have a story to tell the rest of his life, not to mention a pocket full of money.

For the rest of the audience, they may not have left dollars richer, but they were richer for the memories and the enjoyment they received from Kenny Rogers at the Independence Events Center.

Columnist’s Note: Kenny commented about relating personal stories to the audience because either they don’t relate or don’t care. With that thought in mind this writer would like to add a personal footnote you can ignore if you choose. In 1999 I was lucky enough to meet Kenny Rogers in Houston at the rodeo.  “The Greatest” was being played on a Nashville station and it had special meaning for me as my nephew was in college at the time in Warrensburg and was a pitcher. I remembered with fondness when he was a little one with his bat and ball and so full of hope. I mentioned that to Kenny and he quipped, “WHERE did you hear it played.” I told him again and he said with a laugh, “well, we ask them to play songs and they don’t and then we ask them to wait to play a song and they play it.” I knew then this was one guy who was not only super talented, but had an outstanding personality. Therefore it was no surprise to see him a decade later and still get that same feeling about him as a person and his music.

If you do ever get the chance to see him, please do so. If you don’t, look forward to his April 2010 television special celebrating his 50 years in music with special guests Dolly Parton and Lionel Richie.