Kenny Rogers - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 9 Jul 2013
The voice isn't what it used to be, but the country star is still an all-round entertainer
In the US country music is pop music. And while it’s not a completely unknown quantity in Britain it certainly doesn’t shift in anywhere near the same volume as Stateside. However Scotland still has its own proud folk traditions and perhaps that's why Caledonia is such a stronghold for Americana in the UK. And after Dolly and the much missed Johnny Cash they don't come much bigger than Kenny Rogers.
Opening with a photo montage of Kenny through the years and his Bee Gees collaboration 'Hold Me' it's a rather cheesy start, but after two songs Rogers stops to chat and this is when the show really comes to life. He knows his audience, and plays to them. There’s ten minutes of light-hearted banter that's as good as most stand-up comedians. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, poking fun at himself and the ageing crowd. He admits his voice isn’t what it used to be, but what he is is an entertainer - a consummate professional. He even keeps things topical with a shout out to Andy Murray. You don't survive for 50 years in the business without knowing your craft, and a Kenny Rogers show is a well-oiled machine.
He’s right though. Through the years, the voice has weakened and in some songs drifts off by the end of each line. While some tracks lapse into anonymous country-lite, there are many highlights: the psychedelia of 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)' (as re-popularised by The Big Lebowski); the rootsy romp of ‘Stand Up', while ‘The Gambler’ puts the western in country & western.
He leaves the stage after customary closer ‘Islands in the Stream’, the whole audience by now on their feet. The voice might be fading, but it's impossible not to warm to his easy-going charm and infectious patter.