“Kenny Rogers Brings Christmas and Hits to Merrillville”
By Donna Stroup
Country music icon, three time Grammy Award winner and Country Music Hall of Famer, Kenny Rogers, hosted his “Once Again It's Christmas” tour of all-time hits and Christmas music at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana on Saturday evening November 28th, 2015.
Currently touring in support of his latest seasonal album "Once Again It's Christmas," it was a full capacity crowd. Kenny was accompanied by longtime friend, recording artist and Grammy winner, the beautiful Linda Davis, as well as a six piece band.
The show started at 8pm with a journey through some of Kenny's hits over the years. Kenny mentioned his duet partner Dottie West and how he misses her dearly. His dismay as to why Dottie has never been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame was clearly evident. Kenny was then joined by the lovely Linda Davis for her rendition of Dottie's #1 hit "Lesson in Leavin." What a great tribute by Linda; that woman can absolutely sing! On a side note, Kenny also noted that he saw at least twenty women singing along to the song in the audience with angry faces and jokingly exclaimed "There's a lot of bitter women out there!" The audience roared in laughter!
A stunning display of some of the slides of Kenny’s legendary movie, "The Gambler" was projected on stage during his performance of the classic song. What a treat it was to hear the very song sung live which earned Kenny a Grammy for “Best Male Country Vocal Performance” in 1980. It never gets old hearing that beloved song!
Following the performance, Kenny shared a story about playing poker with some friends recently and they told him he was annoying. Just then his infamous GEICO commercial popped up in the background. Kenny had the entire theater laughing hysterically!
As in typical fashion, Kenny loves telling short stories and jokes while interacting with the audience. He sadly informed all of us that next year (2016) will be his final year of performing. The audience let out a resounding "Awww" to which he replied, "You don't care!" Everyone laughed! But, yes we do Kenny!
Fans were treated to a medley of hits when suddenly a female voice from the crowd yelled out a personal request for "Lady" to which Kenny replied, "I know what's next! I may be old but I'm not senile"
Keeping tradition of the Christmas tour, Kenny wrapped up the hits portion of the show with mega-hit "Islands in the Stream," as he tossed tambourines out into the audience. Several patrons in the crowd jockeyed into position to grab one… What a great souvenir!
After a twenty minute intermission, the Christmas show began with an instrumental by Kenny's band and guitarist Randy Dorman. Randy is also the tour photographer. What beautiful music he shared with all of us. The stage was set with everything Christmas; glistening trees, elaborate bows, sparkling garland and colorful ornaments surrounded the stage.
The house lights lowered as a little girl came on stage reciting some of the letter that she had sent to Santa asking, "Is there really a Santa Claus?" and shortly after, Kenny's voice boomed over the speakers saying, "Yes there is Virginia." The young girl was then joined by some more children as they sang "I Believe in Santa Claus." Talk about getting into the Christmas spirit! Linda Davis stepped on stage in a beautiful red blouse with glittery black pants to accompany the children as snowflakes started falling from the ceiling.
After a couple songs Linda welcomed Kenny back to the stage. Kenny delivered a lively performance of "Let It Snow." A few words into the song, Kenny looked around for snowflakes to no avail. He continued to sing and looked to the ceiling, but still no snowflakes were to be found. After a few more verses he pleaded, "Please, did it not just snow when Linda was out here?" to which the audience cracked up.
Kenny warmly welcomed everyone in the audience with a "Merry Christmas" greeting. He lamented how politically correct the world is today and said “Let’s don't lose that sentiment" to which many cheered and clapped in agreement.
Kenny inquired, "Where's your snow?" He shared that in Atlanta where he resides, that when they get an inch or two of snow they freak out! As he sang "White Christmas" he acknowledged that it won't be Christmas until you sing along so the audience happily did just that!
Kenny felt the need to explain the presence of the stool he was sitting on and why he wobbles around the stage. Most recently, Kenny had a knee replacement surgery but not to worry if he falls because he has "Life Alert." Laughter once again was heard all around the theatre!
Sharing very fascinating history behind the song, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Kenny told the crowd that the song was originally written to honor soldiers overseas who longed to be home for Christmas. Following the performance, Kenny asked any veterans in the audience to please stand up. He thanked them for their service, as the audience clapped and cheered.
Linda came back out to sing "Baby It's Cold Outside." Afterwards, the stage went dark as Kenny's voice over began to recite "On This Night a Child." The children appeared on stage dressed as shepherds as well as Baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
What an honor it must have been for the children as well as the Merrillville High School Choir of Merrillville, Indiana to join Kenny on stage performing "The Light" and "Silent Night." Kenny enlists local choirs to perform with him from each city for every show.
There was a warm feeling all around throughout the entire evening. The audience was treated via video to an extremely talented acapella group named Home Free. Kenny joined them by singing along to a song called "Children, Go Where I send Thee."
Kenny looked sharp as ever in his black suit, red shirt, buttoned vest and red handkerchief. Linda wore numerous jaw-dropping dazzling costumes during the show, but one of many highlights was a beautiful white rhinestone-studded dress that sparkled as she and Kenny performed a couple more songs together.
Kenny sincerely thanked all of the children and Merrillville High School choir for their part in the show. Immediately after, the Merrillville High School Choir took the stage to give an astounding performance.
Kenny closed the show by telling the audience, "Linda and I both wish that you spend this and every holiday with the ones you love, as they both sang "Til The Season Comes Round Again." Kenny's parting words before leaving the stage were, "Thank you everybody, thanks for coming. Merry Christmas!"
1. Love Or Something Like It
2. Old Medley (Through The Years, She Believes In Me)
4. Coward Of The County
5. Lesson In Leavin
6. The Gambler
9. Islands In The Stream
10. Randy Dorman and band instrumental
11. I Believe In Santa Claus
12. Painting The Town
13. Tennessee Christmas.
14. Let It Snow
15. White Christmas
16. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
17. Baby It's Cold Outside
18. The Light
19. Silent Night
20. Children, Go Where I Send Thee (Home Free)
21. Mary Did You Know
22. Go Tell It On A Mountain
23. Choir Feature
24. Joy To The World
25. Til The Season Comes Round Again
Visit Kenny's official website here: http://www.kennyrogers.com/home