I know what you're thinking: Kenny Rogers? The country singer? The
hold 'em/fold 'em guy? Why are you writing about his Bonnaroo set? I could be looking at your Best
Photos or Day 4 Highlights or really anything else. Why do I care?
Why? Because he delivered the most exciting set of the day and brought out the best guest of the festival not named D'Angelo. Here are five reasons why I went into the show expecting nothing and came out writing this post:
5. He Mocks Himself
Rogers and Bonnaroo: What's wrong with this picture?" said the singer
at the start of the set. "But I belong here. Know how I know? I have a
bracelet." Throughout the 75-minute set, Rogers made fun of himself
multiple times, genuinely perplexed why Bonnaroo organizers would want
to book a singer with more than 120 charted singles and one of the most
influential catalogs in country and pop music. At one point, Rogers
referenced his 1977 hit "Lucille," among others, and noted, "I have had
an incredible career singing about dysfunctional families."
4. He Mocks His Audience
At 73, Rogers is allowed to have his "Get off my lawn" Eastwood-in-Gran-Turino side, as the singer jokingly berated the multi-generational crowd for
their lack of singing, clapping and swaying skills. "I just have to say
you guys are terrible singers," said Rogers repeatedly. "They did it
better in Quebec and they don't even speak English." The singer was no
kinder to those who swayed during one song: "For God's sake, quit
swaying. You look like thousands of Ray Charles." The pseudo-anger was
only temporary, as Rogers threw out multiple tambourines into the crowd
3. He Only Played the Hits
audience is made up of two kinds of people," said Rogers. "Those born
after the '60s and those born before that, but don't remember the '60s.
So I'm gonna do every hit I've ever had." He did just that, ensuring
even casual fans recognized songs like "Through The Years,"
"Islands in the Stream," and "The Gambler." Rogers also performed 1978's "She Believes in Me," which he called "his personal favorite."
2. He Received the Key to the City
I'm not really sure how to set this up," admitted Rogers. Fans began to
speculate on special guests or an unexpected cover, only to see Betty
Superstein, mayor of Manchester (Bonnaroo's home city), join Rogers
onstage with various city councilpersons and a local teacher to present
the singer with the Key to the City. While it's unclear when Rogers will
return to Manchester and, if so, which doors he will need to open, it
was a poignant gesture, as the singer joins past Key recipients B.B.
King, Kris Kristofferson and 8-year-old crime fighter Landon Crabtree.
1. He Brought Out Lionel Richie
Midway through his 1980 romantic ballad "Lady," Rogers was joined onstage by the song's writer and producer Lionel
Richie, who is still cooler than all of us. Clad in all-black with black
sunglasses, the R&B singer and longtime friend of Rogers sang a
loose, rambunctious version of the song with his mentor, with the duo
performing most of the song with their arms around the other's shoulder.
"That was so close to being an unhealthy relationship," said Rogers.
Richie subsequently sat Rogers down on a stool and performed his 1983
R&B-pop hit "All Night Long." The connection to Rogers was nil, but
who cares when thousands of people are screaming, "Jambo jumbo!"?