A capacity crowd sang along to Rogers' classic ballads and love songs.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Kenny Rogers knew he had some convincing to do at his Valentine's Day concert Friday -- the veteran entertainer quipped that he could easily spot the reluctant men who'd been "dragged" there by their wives and girlfriends.
Joking and laughing easily with the audience, Rogers demonstrated a consummate knack for winning over a crowd, including the men, with a lively and diverse, 70-minute performance of rock songs and ballads, old favorites and newer hits.
There was something for everybody.
The capacity-crowd at Powers Auditorium sang along to Rogers classics like "Lucille," the story of a weary wife who leaves her farmer husband with "four hungry children and a crop in the field."
He sat in the shadows and showed video clips of his made-for-television Gambler movies for a rendition of his trademark tune "The Gambler." Another sing-along favorite, it's a ballad about an old card player who doles out some wise advice the night before he dies.
Looking fit in a black T-shirt, black jeans, cowboy boots and a blue silk shirt jacket, the white-haired Rogers belted out several country rock selections, including a tribute to country music greats Hank Williams and Marty Robbins.
His newer hits drew instant applause from fans.
Rogers picked up a guitar himself to perform "The Greatest," a recent ballad about a Little League ball player. It's a song that attracts hundreds of comments a year on Rogers' Web-site from fans who love youth baseball, he said.
That was followed by the romantic "Buy Me a Rose," about a man's discovery that the "little things" are more important to his wife than big cars and other luxuries.
"That song is proof to me that men are from Mars and women are from Venus," he joked.
Other Rogers classics included in the show included "Coward of the County," "Lady," "Through the Years," 'You Decorated My Heart" and "She Believes in Me."
Rogers said he enjoys interacting with his audiences, so he always requests special lighting illuminating the front rows "so that I can watch you watching me."
He teased a woman near the front auditorium at Friday's concert when he noticed she had a pair of binoculars. "Anytime someone closer than the 10th row is looking at me with binoculars, I call that invasion of privacy," he said, laughing.
Considered a crossover performance because of his success in both country and pop music circles, Rogers' musical career has spanned five decades. The singer has recorded 58 albums and sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and he performs live concerts frequently in the United States, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Africa.
The entertainer also founded the Kenny Rogers Roasters restaurant chain and is a respected photographer who was invited by the White House to create a portrait of former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton for a CBS-TV special.