|Legendary country music singer Kenny Rogers greets fans at the Pacific Amphitheater in Costa Mesa on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Photo: Bob Steshetz|
|Kenny Rogers with singer|
Linda Davis in Costa Mesa.
Backed by his long-time, six-member band and joined during the performance of key duets by singer Linda Davis, Rogers' 95-minute performance included more than two dozen songs and almost as many stories and good-humored asides that added up to plenty of nostalgic good vibes throughout the concert.
Although the Houston, Texas native's once-shining baritone voice is no longer able to smoothly navigate the higher notes of his range (he struggled early in the show to land all the upper notes in "Through the Years"), Rogers' affable personality and connection with the near-capacity crowd easily overcame those challenges.
After opening the show with "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" (a Mel Tillis-penned hit for his late '60s-early '70s group The First Edition), Rogers, 78, said "I had a knee replacement. I can't stand, I can't walk, it's driving me crazy." Rogers did sit for much of the show, but did often get to his feet during more dramatic moments of the concert.
Among the highlights early in the show was a psychedelic rock-styled take of the First Edition track "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," a tender performance of "She Believes In Me" (which he noted is the favorite of the many hits he recorded in the 1980s), and his remembrances of participating in the recording of the 1985 charity single "We Are the World" before performing a reworked version of the song complete with rear-screen projections of the original sessions where Rogers sang with Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Daryl Hall, Ray Charles and many other legendary artists.
As the night went on it was clear that Rogers was not only here to celebrate his own career, but other artists (Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, the late Dottie West, and members of his touring band) who have been a part of his musical journey. In particular, Rogers sang a moving duet with West, whose video image was projected overhead as they shared vocals on the pretty ballad "Every Time Two Fools Collide."
Standouts that were performed later – many with the audience singing along – included "Coward of the County," "We've Got Tonight" (with Davis singing Sheena Easton's parts), "Islands in the Stream" and the country legend's theme song "The Gambler."
"I want to thank you for all you've done for me," Rogers told the crowd toward the end of his set.
Rogers' farewell stop in Orange County was a memorable and magical night to be sure.
To see Rogers' remaining tour dates, which continue through early November 2017, visit the artist's official website at kennyrogers.com.
Review by Robert Kinsler
Photos by Bob Steshetz