Kenny Rogers has an adoring and well-earned fanbase and there were few empty seats at Vector Arena on Friday.
The Topp Twins provided a nifty warm-up set. Garbed in gung-ho gingham and then changing to dashing denim while they dished out their sharp mix of heartland country and rollicking satire, they might have been a challenge to follow.
But with the support of his slick house band and the swooning strings and punchy horns of Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the man did not disappoint.
The genial Rogers whirled us through a parade of hits, rewarding Amber Randall with her own hoedown, after her tasty fiddling in If You Want to Find Love.
Through the Years was one of the first numbers that had some audience members raising their voices in singalong. And the megahits drew the expected response. Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town created a jiving surge to the front of the hall.
Later on, the vibes of Have a Little Faith in Me were such that we might have been in the midst of a revivalist meeting.
At 72, Rogers hasn't quite the vocal stamina of four decades ago, yet he was brave enough to sing in front of a late 60s video of Just Dropped In. The unexpected touch was following it up by reciting the second verse of Mickey Newbury's lyrics so that we could squirm at their acid flashback silliness.
Most of Rogers' humour was amiable, singling out an audience member in the front row and tossing him 10 bucks for every tune known. The singer's wry observation that his career had been founded on songs about dysfunctional families did not dim their appeal for the assembled denizens of Middle New Zealand.
It was warm fuzzies all around when he ladled out the treacle of To Me against a big screen montage of his 6-year-old twin sons.
The evening ended with Islands in the Stream, without Dolly Parton. And it worked. What could have been a one-sided love song became a testament to the special relationship between a veteran singer and his thousands of loyal fans.By William Dart Email William