Kenny Rogers Live in Belfast
Kenny Rogers takes to the stage of the SSE Arena promptly at 9pm and opens with the instant crowd-pleasing ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town’.
Age hasn’t been too kind to Rogers. He’s 78 and knee surgery has left him with a limp and forces him to do the majority of the show seated. His voice is far from what it used to be too. At times he seems breathless, but nonetheless, the set is tight and slick.
Rogers knows his audience and even in the cavernous arena he manages to deliver to each and every individual in the crowd during his extended story-telling moments between songs giving the atmosphere of a much more intimate show.
His career is the stuff of legends and the envy of many. Before firmly settling in the country genre he dabbled in rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and played double bass for The New Christy Minstrels in the mid-1960s.
Joking about his age, the unfair fitness of Mick Jagger who he tells us “dances like a 15 year old”, and Willie Nelson who’s now got a black belt in karate, Rogers with a glint in his eye tells us “I obviously didn’t do enough drugs in the sixties”.
He’s joined on stage by Linda Davis who sings solo on ‘Paper Moon’ and also duets with Rogers on ‘Islands In The Stream’. His career proudly runs out on a big screen behind adding to his story-telling and when he tells us he recorded ‘Love Lifted Me’ with the best backing band ever tonight’s version is then augmented on the big screen with his classic performance form The Muppet Show.
A tribute to old friend Dottie West is also cleverly worked into the set, Rogers singing along to archive footage of their original duet ‘Every Time Two Fools Collide’.
Tonight is all about saying goodbye one last time. He’s currently well into a two year farewell tour and digging deep into the back catalogue to the fans delight. ‘Lucille’, with its tale of heartbreak is something Rogers can relate to well. After all, he’s been married five times and no doubt had his own fair share of heartbreak as a result.
Though earlier recorded by Bobby Bare and Johnny Cash, ‘The Gambler’ became a massive hit for Rogers and by the response tonight it’s as popular as ever with his fans.
‘Coward Of The County’, a song that tells a story of harrowing violence against a woman and the effects on her pacifist husband is also greeted with of the biggest arm waving singalongs we’ve ever seen in the venue.
At times he fluffs the words and doesn’t hit his vocal range, but it doesn’t matter because the audience pick them up and take over.
It’s one big nostalgia trip for fans and reviewers alike. All those songs we heard on the wireless in the 70s are at the fore tonight and they are delivered entertainingly by a seasoned old troubadour who’s brought his love to Belfast one last time.