Kenny Rogers has crossed over country-pop-soft-rock borders so often that these boundaries have become obliterated with his music. At a jam-packed Capitol Centre last night, Rogers tossed out tambourines, Frisbees and hit songs with equal facility. In a world dominated by rock and soul, he has made pop not only acceptable, but respectable.
As he did last year, Rogers performed in the round, and there was a similar symmetry about his somewhat brief show. Rogers' material falls into two major categories: His love songs espouse either cheery bravado ("Lucille," "Love or Something Like It," "Love the World Away") or maudlin sentimentality ("She Believes in Me," "Lady," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town"). Working under a massive light rig that looked like it was borrowed from Steven Spielberg, Rogers made all of these songs decidedly close encounters with his enraptured audience.
It's the morality tales, or story-songs as Rogers calls them, that are his most distinctive attribute. Last night, Rogers performed the obligatory "Gambler" and "Coward of the County," as well as a new chapter, "Greybeard"; it shares a familiar western motif but is mercifully short.
Rogers is not blessed with the greatest voice; but he's compensated with smooth, tight arrangements and a wholesomely charismatic delivery. He is neither brilliant nor bland, but a comfortable, familiar presence providing good, easy listening.