Although everyone who went to the Kenny Rogers Hits and Christmas
Tour show Sunday night at Mystic Lake Casino Hotel certainly got their
money’s worth, perhaps no one did as much so as a gentleman named Gary
who was sitting in the front row.
In his banter between songs during the “Hits” portion of the show, Rogers gave Gary $10 for every hit song that Gary could name, and continued to throw $10 bills at the man the entire night.
“I’m not opposed to buying fans,” Rogers quipped, before eventually also giving the man a T-shirt.
In front of his eight-piece band, Rogers emerged from the shadows a few minutes after 8 p.m. and, for the first hour of the show, he rolled through familiar hit after hit.
A slideshow of Rogers through the years was shown on Mystic Lake’s jumbo screens during his first tune, the classic “Love Or Something Like It.”
Before playing another song, Rogers exchanged more banter with the audience about having special lights installed so he could see the audience, too, instead of them just being able to see him and his band.
“They could leave and I’d never know it,” Rogers joked from the stage, “so now I can watch you watch me. I’m convinced it was a smart move.”
His humor continued to shine through as he joked with a woman in the eighth row who had binoculars, his ability to tell what couples in the audience were married, and rating his fans as to how much they know about Rogers and his music (he has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide). Which brings us back to Gary.
“By the end of the night, he’s going to be so excited about country music he’s going to go out and buy a Garth Brooks album with MY money,” Rogers said.
He quickly explained the format of the evening’s show, and said about 32 years ago when he was doing a show during the month of December, someone yelled out that Rogers should be doing Christmas songs. A short time later, after he mixed a few Christmas songs into the set list, someone then yelled out that he should be playing the hits.
“I’m convinced I have no idea what you guys want to hear,” he said with a laugh, adding that his Christmas and Hits tour contains just that – plenty of hits and plenty of Christmas music.
The hits then quickly followed, as he launched into his hits “Rub Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” “Through the Years,” “You Decorated My Life,” “She Believes in Me,” “Coward of the County,” “Daytime Friends,” and “Buy Me a Rose.”
Then, as if those hits weren’t enough, he said he had a Christmas gift for those in the audience, and introduced 90′s country hit-maker Billy Dean to the crowd. With Rogers sitting on a white bench on the side of the stage, Dean took center-stage and kicked things up a notch with his version of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” the famous John Denver hit that Dean covered in 2004.
“Billy The Kid” and “We Just Disagree” followed before Dean turned over the spotlight back over to Rogers who began perhaps one of his most famous hits “The Gambler,” as videos again showed on Mystic Lake’s jumbo screens from when the song was originally recorded in 1978.
“Lucille” was next before Rogers introduced his band and headed into “Lady,” yet another well-known Rogers hit.
As one of his band members then tossed tambourines to the audience, Rogers led the crowd in “Islands in the Stream,” a song originally made famous as a duet with Dolly Parton.
A nice Minnesota touch kicked off the Christmas portion of the concert as the Charlie Brown theme song played while screen shots of various Minnesota scenes were shown on the Mystic Lake jumbo screens. Some audience members also got to show off their singing skills prior to the show and were shown on the jumbo screens singing their favorite Christmas carols.
An instrumental of “What Child is This,” followed by Dean coming back on stage for “Let the Bells Ring Out for Christmas,” featuring several Shakopee area students, got the crowd in the holiday spirit.
The great Brenda Lee hit “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jinglebells” kept things moving right along. Nothing better than a little fiddle and sax with the timeless classic.
Dean tied his hit “Let Them Be Little” into the Christmas theme, which shows the set list stayed true to the Christmas and hits theme for both artists. Even though Rogers claims to have no idea what his audience wants to hear, he’s got it down.
The group of local students again joined Dean on “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and Dean began “Let It Snow,” which Rogers came out and finished.
Exclaiming “Merry Christmas” to the crowd, Rogers said he is afraid that expression is going to be lost. He said he was recently at a store and the clerk told him “Happy Holidays.” He told the clerk that it’s “Merry Christmas,” and the clerk responded that he was not allowed to say that. Rogers said, “well, I am, so Merry Christmas.”
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” a sing-along of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and Rogers’ version of the Ronnie Milsap Christmas hit “It’s Just Not Christmas (If I Can’t Spend It With You),” followed nicely, as did what Rogers called perhaps one of the most popular contemporary Christmas songs out there – his 1997 duet with Wynonna “Mary, Did You Know?” The hit was done with Rogers being supported by a virtual Wynonna singing her parts.
Another highlight of the night came with the Shakopee High School Choir, under the direction of Michael Kovic, performed hits like “O Come All Ye Faithful” “Away in a Manger,” “Oh Holy Night,” and several other selections.
“Silent Night,” which Rogers said was originally written on a guitar, came next, as did “We Three Kings.”
Rogers said it is important that keeping the greatest story ever – the story of the birth of Jesus – alive is very important to him. A large group sing-along with Rogers, Dean, the Shakopee High School Choir, and the elementary choir students who were part of the show took place on “Joy To The World.”
Before his last song, Rogers offered a thought that has never been more at the forefront of our lives than it is now, stating “never take a day for granted because you never know what’s going to happen from day to day.”
“Til the Season Comes ‘Round Again” showed the audience in the 2,100 capacity theatre that even though he hadn’t yet walked off the stage from this year’s Christmas and Hits tour – Rogers and company will be ready to go the next time around.