Kenny Rogers fans can relax: The surgeons who operated on the veteran country star's throat in February removed not a grain of grit from that sandy-edged voice. Performing in-the-round to a sellout crowd of nearly 15,000 Friday night at the Long Beach Arena, the congenial, silver-bearded singer showed off some shiny, stylish new threads as he continuously lapped a flashy, eight-point star-shaped stage. Yet beneath the high-tech trappings, Rogers and his gentle country-pop music seemed more like a favorite old pair of shoes: unspectacular, perhaps, but eminently comfortable for an undemanding, unpretentious evening.
Opening act Sawyer Brown is a Nashville-based quintet that's been attracting attention for bringing perky, new-wavish dance rhythms to country audiences. Lead singer Mark Miller, whose clothes sparkled even more than Rogers', whirled and bounced around the stage energetically, but never displayed the same vocal dynamics. Outside Nashville, this unremarkable group would be just another face in the Top 40 crowd. Lee Greenwood, previously reviewed, also appeared.