His voice was unmistakable from the farthest reaches of the Bonnaroo farm.
Both voices, actually.
The 11th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival unleashed the icons on its fourth and final day Sunday – presenting singer Kenny Rogers, who was joined on stage for his final two numbers by Lionel Ritchie.
“I'm gonna do every hit I have ever had,” promised Rogers, who counts 21 chart-toppers across the span of his 50-year career in music.
The 73-year-old sprinted through his greatest hits within the hour-plus set at The Other Tent, including 'Lucille,' 'Coward of the County,' 'Ruby,' 'The Gambler,' and even 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In,)' from his days with 1960s pop group, The First Edition.
Asked at a pre-show press event what he thought about playing for the, possibly younger, Bonnaroo demographic, Rogers was confident they already knew most of his material.
“I'm convinced a lot of these kids suffered child abuse when their parents made them listen to me,” he joked. “They vicariously know a lot of it.”
Turned out, the guy was full of one-liners, mentioning that he was disappointed to have missed the midnight show the night before by his old golfing buddy, Alice Cooper.
“We used to play twice a week” Rogers said. “He's a good golfer – I won a lotta money off him.”
Asked what the unlikely duo talked about on the links and he deadpanned, “Snakes, mostly.”
As for playing Bonnaroo, though, the man who's done it all in music said he'd toured his share of festivals back in the '60s, too.
“(But) there's so much more energy here,” said Rogers, who's more likely to be found playing the casino circuit these days. “Everyone was so stoned in the '60s they didn't know what was happening. At least they wait a while to get stoned here.”
“This reminds me of my dad – I grew up listening to this,” said Amy Anderson of Nashville, who, like many in the crowd, had goosebumps at the sound of the man's seemingly ageless voice. “He even looks like my dad – He's a silver fox, too.”
He might of even squeezed a few more hits into the show if it weren't for the Manchester and Coffee County mayors who came on stage at one point to present Rogers with a key to the city.
Then the retro dial got turned all the way up to 11 at show's end with Ritchie's surprise guest appearance, as the two treated the raucous crowd to duet versions of 'Lady' and 'All Night Long.'
A forest of raised cell phone cameras instantly sprouted up.
And as if that weren't enough, the man even defied the day's forecast. The overcast skies that seemed to threaten an imminent downpour as the show began somehow stayed at bay throughout.
That's star power, people. Sheer star power.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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