Music City came out Wednesday night (Oct. 25) to honor the career of one of America’s most beloved entertainers as Kenny Rogers made his final concert appearance in Nashville, for a special night of celebration and music titled All In For The Gambler. But, for the most part on this stop at Bridgestone Arena, the Country Music Hall of Famer was a spectator as a mixture of current superstars and longtime fan favorites showcased some of their favorite musical moments of the Houston, TX native’s career.
The evening was broken into three different portions, with The Oak Ridge Boys -- who participated in the first Country Music arena tour with Rogers and Dottie West turning back the hands of time to 1978 with “Love Or Something Like It,” urging the sold-out crowd to sing along. Other top moments of the first part of the show was a deliciously raunchy version of “Tulsa Turnaround,” a lesser-known Rogers song from his days with The First Edition, from Elle King. Justin Moore delighted the crowd with “Lucille,” the song that launched the career of Rogers on the country charts in 1977. Billy Currington delivered a spot-on performance of “Morning Desire,” and Jamey Johnson performed two songs from the Rogers files that couldn’t have been more different: the introspective classic “Sweet Music Man,” and “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” a hit for the singer with The First Edition in 1967.
The evening included a reunion for The Judds, with Wynonna stunning those in attendance with a soaring version of “You Turn The Light On,” a track from 1979’s million-selling Kenny disc, before bringing mother Naomi out for a tip of the hat to Rogers’ 2003 track “Back To The Well.” Perhaps the highlight of the first segment was a stunning version of the singer’s 1987 hit “Twenty Years Ago” from Linda Davis, Rogers’ touring partner, and her daughter, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott.
After a brief intermission, Rogers was called by the stage to receive several proclamations, including one designating Oct. 25 as “Kenny Rogers Day” in Nashville from the office of Mayor Megan Barry. But, the focus of the evening would quickly veer back to the music, as Alison Krauss serenaded Rogers and the crowd with a gorgeous take on “Love The World Away,” while Kris Kristofferson paid tribute to Kenny’s cover of his song “Me and Bobby McGgee.” Lionel Richie surprised the crowd with an appearance to perform “Lady,” and Chris Stapleton handled the duties on Rogers’ musical calling card, 1978’s “The Gambler.” But the segment belonged to Lady Antebellum’s clever re-creation of “She Believes In Me,” making the song work as a duet, Little Big Town’s thoughtful performance of “Through The Years,” and Idina Menzel. The Tony and Oscar-winning performer rolled through a flawless version of “You Decorated My Life” before knocking “We’ve Got Tonight” out of the ballpark – or Bridgestone Arena in a duet with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley.