Perhaps the most disheartening thing about Kenny Rogers' sold-out performance at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim Thursday night was that many of his most touching songs have been reduced to vehicles for tired bits.
At its most glaring, this approach totally undermined the emotional impact of "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)," an early Rogers hit about the emotional turmoil of a paraplegic with a cheating wife, as Rogers turned the song into an audience clapping drill.
And so it went for a crisp 55-minute set that featured many Rogers hits at their glossiest.
The medley of three Top 20 ballads ("Through the Years," "You Decorated My Life" and "She Believes in Me") and highly accelerated tempos on hits like "Love Will Turn You Around" further illuminated the problems of a body of material that's almost worn out and desperately in need some kind of new arrangement. Even Rogers' jokes are on the moth-eaten side.
Not that the audience seemed to mind, rewarding every half-turned vocal and musty joke with a healthy dose of the appropriate response. It leaves one wondering how this crowd might react to a show where Rogers' energy level is existent. Rogers, whose five-concert Celebrity engagement concludes with two shows tonight, seems to be turning into the Perry Como of the 1980s.