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Kalamazoo Gazette Review: Kenny Rogers Delivers Christmas & Hits

Kalamazoo Gazette / MLive.com
By R.G. Small
Sunday, November 27, 2011
KALAMAZOO — 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.

Rogers' 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.
Opening 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."
The 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."
Dean 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."
Rogers 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 — "Merry Christmas!"

Posted 11/28/2011

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