Kenny Rogers brought his 30th anniversary "Christmas
and Hits" show to Kalamazoo on Saturday night, treating the crowd at
Western Michigan University's Mlller Auditorium as if we were a small
gathering of friends instead of a packed house of fans.
remarkable career spans 50-plus years and his long list of awards
includes three Grammys, five Country Music Association Awards, and
eleven People's Choice Awards. What was most remarkable in his
performance Saturday was his gracious kindness.
appropriately with "We've Got Tonight" and "The Party's Just Begun," the
first act was filled with hit after cross-over hit. The band of eight
instrumentalists played three keyboards, two guitars, bass, flute,
saxophone, drums, violin, and cello. The keyboards filled in a full
orchestra, sound effects, and back-up vocals, providing a richly
textured scoring for the songs.
Rogers invited the audience to
sing the chorus of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town," but fans missed
the closing lyric "For God's sake turn around." After Rogers teased
them, the audience delivered with the resounding chorus for "Lucille."
performance became a celebration of family as Rogers introduced his
wife and twin sons, singing "To Me" dedicated to them. Country star
Billy Dean's "Let Them Be Little" featured a projected photo album of
his family. Dean favored the crowd with "We Just Disagree" and "Billy
the Kid". And Rogers closed out the act with a string of hits, including
"The Gambler" and "Lady".
Act Two opened with a solo guitar
playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", with each band member layered
into the mix by song's end. This act could easily have been titled
"Christmas and Our Kids," as six children from Kalamazoo were featured
singing "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
started singing "Let It Snow" and it did, with a snow machine filling
the stage house with flakes. It stopped just as Rogers entered and
quipped "What's wrong with this picture? How come it quits snowing when I
come on?" Not to worry. He then led the audience in singing "I'm
Dreaming of a White Christmas".
Rogers, noted for his duets,
shared a powerful rendition of his favorite Christmas song "Mary Did You
Know," singing with the projected image of Wynonna Judd. The screens
then filled with Currier and Ives' images of Christmas, as one carol
after another celebrated the season.
The Portage Central High
School choir took stage and joined Rogers for a magnificent "Oh Holy
Night". The six Kalamazoo kids sang a guitar backed "Silent Night." Dean
joined with "We Three Kings" then the full company of choir, kids,
band, and stars came together on the stage apron for "Joy to the World."
finished with a bittersweet postscript, noting that we should "hold
onto our families every moment, as we don't know who may not be with us
when ‘The Season Come Round Again'." Rogers' parting words to us —