Kenny Rogers: five festival performance tips
28th Jun 2013 | 13:45
“At the peak of my career I started doing those big venues. I was the first country music artist to go out and work that type of venue, so I’ve worked that number of people before but it was certainly in a different period of my career.
“I think it’s really a question of getting my feet wet, getting out there, talking to ‘em, seeing how much they want me to talk, and then do some songs that hopefully they’ll know and if they don’t know, hopefully they’ll like ‘em.
“Bonnarro is about 80,000 people and I got just great reviews from Rolling Stone and everyone else [Kenny played Bonnarro in 2012], and that word travels. I guess somebody got in touch with my manager or he called, and they said ‘yeah, come on over!’
“My only concern is that we’re working in the day time so normally I have videos, for the Gambler and Just Dropped In, and those are pretty powerful things so I don’t have all of my tricks.
“But you know, I’ve done it before without ‘em, I’ll survive. I’ll just drive fast when the show is over!”
Make a connection - with cash if neccesary
“I’m different from most guys in today’s music in that I love to talk to the audience.
“I love to have some kind of connection to the front row of audience. I learned a long time ago that what you do is you entertain the first ten rows, and you acknowledge the back ten rows.
“If it works, then it goes all the way through so that’s about all you can do – you can’t look at the back ten rows to talk to them.
“I have a couple of things that I do. When I’m in a smaller venue I have a way of doing it where I pick out a guy in the front row who doesn’t want to be there – you can spot those guys – and then I give him ten dollars for every one of my hit songs he can name. I end up throwing him tens all night long! I give away about $150 a night doing that!”
Play the game
“I’m convinced that these kids parents must have played them my music as child abuse when they were young!
"I think that’s the advantage I have – my music has been around so long that they vicariously have heard it.
"As long as they’re familiar with the song, they’re accepting of it I think. Otherwise you have to do songs that fall into their category, what sort of songs would they like. It’s a chess game. Just take every day as it comes, say a little prayer and run!"
Bring out the big guns
“The songs that are universal, there’s six or seven songs that everybody knows everywhere – The Gambler, Island In The Stream, Lady, Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town a bunch of the ballads - those are like artillery for me.
“I get out there and I know that at the end of the show I’m going to have five or six songs that most people will know. You try to encourage them to singalong with them and you have some fun with the audience.
“I’ve been extremely lucky. I think longevity gives you stature, you know, the fact that I’ve been around so long doing this means I get respect wherever I go. I have to earn the applause, but I get respect for being around for this length of time.”
“There’s only two ways I can compete in today’s market: I can do what everybody else is doing and do it better, and I don’t like my chances of doing that, or I can do something no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison.
“I’m a country singer with a lot of other musical influences. I actually started in jazz, I sang with a jazz group for ten years. The New Christian Minstrels was folk music, so I learned the power of a story song about social significance.”
Kenny Rogers is playing the Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury at 15:45 on Sunday. Catch his performance on the BBC Glastonbury site.