Perhaps the most disheartening thing about Kenny Rogers' sold-out performance at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim on Thursday night was that many of his most touching songs have been reduced to vehicles for tired bits.
At its most glaring, this approach 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.
Rogers turned the song into an audience clapping drill.
And so it went. Rogers' 55-minute performance had all the sincerity of a used-car salesman trying to unload a real clunker.
Three No. 1 ballads -- "Through the Years," "You Decorated My Life" and "She Believes in Me"--were sliced and diced into a medley; tempos of such hits as "Love Will Turn You Around" were highly accelerated, evidence that Rogers considers his material to be almost worn out, desperately in need of some kind of new arrangement.
His jokes, certainly, were on the moth-eaten side.
Not that the audience seemed to mind: Every half-turned vocal and musty gag was rewarded with a healthy dose of response.
It left one wondering how this crowd might react to a show where Rogers actually has an energy level. Rogers' five-concert engagement at the Celebrity concludes with two sold-out shows tonight.