with Crosby Loggins
Greek Theater, Los Angeles • June 12, 2004
Kenny Loggins has never been cool.
Indeed, over his 3 decade long career, it is as if he has avoided being hip with zeal. Okay, maybe he hasn’t tried to be uncool, but he certainly hasn’t circled it with any sort of notable proximity. His safe, melodically buffered brand of rock ‘n’ roll found significant airplay on stations that played the likes of Survivor, Journey and Huey Lewis and The News, while his adult contemporary balladry was welcomed on outlets that favored the Carpenters and Chicago.
If not cool, the singer/guitarist was certainly hot with radio and record stores for a generation. With over a dozen Gold and Platinum albums between his Loggins & Messina and solo efforts, Loggins heated up the charts for the better part of the ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s, thanks to a slew of mass appeal hit singles, and later on, his built-in fan base.
Despite this glaring success, diehard rock critics often handed in lukewarm reviews, dismissing the often obvious, middle-of-the-road arrangements and perhaps resenting his success. Still, Loggins’s feel-good and often sensitive music appealed to the not-so-angst-ridden side of suburbia. Housewives, families and anyone longing for a diversion without the perversion was in good hands with albums like Celebrate Me Home and High Adventure. Later on, children were fully embraced with an entire album, 1994’s Return to Pooh Corner, recalling and furthering the spirit of the early ’70s mega-hit “House At Pooh Corner,” resounding thanks to Disney’s investment in the iconic children’s character Winnie the Pooh. A fat, orange bear without a mean bone in his body was hardly the kind of thing street level rock bands would embrace, and, truth be told, Loggins was the furthest thing from street. He was often childlike and innocent in his approach, even when he “rocked.” Bouncy tracks like “Footloose” were wide-eyed and giddy, even getting moms and dads, and in some cases, grandparents on the dance floor. But raised fists poking out of jean jackets were a rare sight.
Loggins knew how to connect with a large audience, even if he didn’t catch fire with passionate niche groups. This is a skill he honed as a staff songwriter at a record label, whose job was to write hits (“Pooh” etc.). Jim Messina was a credible force thanks to his work with everyone from Buffalo Springfield to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and his own bands like Poco. He was a well-regarded producer (and also a staff writer for CBS) when Loggins & Messina met to create Loggins’s solo debut. It quickly became a dual effort and Loggins and Messina was born, surviving for the first half of the ’70s before Loggins realized his vision as a solo artist. While Loggins & Messina tended toward more folk, semi-country soft rock, Loggins evolved (or devolved) into synth-based corporate rock in the late ’80s, something he abandoned in the ’90s much to the delight of his fans. Regardless of the era, Loggins might best be heard in a mini-van on the way home from your kid’s soccer game, with half the team clapping along.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the crowd at the Greek Theater was nestled in their late 30s, 40s and even 50s, made up of mostly male/female couples. If one were to divide the demographics on sex, the majority had to be women. Only a handful of non-white attendees were spotted. Perhaps it is a bit daunting to force white-bread rock down the throats of Compton and Harlem.
Keeping the family theme in place, whether purposefully or incidentally, Loggins’s son, Crosby, appearing to be in his early 20s, treated the audience to a dose of nepotism, performing a handful of songs not-too distant from the feel of Loggins & Messina, mostly earthy and acoustic. He referred to his band as “friends” and admitted to no label deal but simply appeared to be in it for the thrill, taking pictures of the audience to capture what may be a onetime shot at fame, even if it is only for 15 minutes. Or in this case, 20 minutes. The set was greeted with polite and possibly inspired applause depending on whom you ask. Not a bad way to start the evening, warm fuzzies in full force.
Without a great wait the headliner greeted the audience with his mid career hit “Keep The Fire,” a rocker in comparison to the mostly intimate material on display during the body of the set. Tracks like “Heart to Heart” and a rousing rendition of “Celebrate Me Home,” endeared him to the very adult crowd. “Celebrate Me Home” connected as a pre-encore closer in which the only special effect the frontman used was a walk into the crowd, unabated and cheered on. Unlike obsessed fans that would normally assault their “leader”, this audience was more delighted than uncontrolled, appreciative if not hanging on his every movement.
Perhaps acknowledging that middle age permeated the onlookers, the front man readily admitted “The One That Got Away” from his new studio album, It’s About Time, was inspired by divorce, a battle he suffered not once but twice. Something for mature hearts to chew on. However, he did not hang heads with the acknowledgement, but simply planted a seed of perspective in the performance with a sighing “oh well, life goes on” temperament.
Not all ‘tween song chatter was somber, for most of it was intended as a warm prodding to keep the good vibes in place. At one moment he said he was on tour so his son could have a gig. This brought a burst of laughter.
Even though heartfelt material dotted the setlist, entertainment was the highest priority. Loggins never executed a moment without smiling or engrossing himself in the moment. Even such innocent though “surfacey” fare as the Loggins & Messina staple “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (actually covered by hard rockers Poison in the late ’80s) instilled toe tapping all around. The band, like its leader, was amiable and committed, even during the trite though necessary double encore featuring mega soundtrack hits “Danger Zone” (Top Gun) and “Footloose,” (Footloose) and closing with the ballad “Forever.”
At 56 years of age, the veteran craftsman and performer not only hit notes but also sustained them with confidence. With a bare essentials visual presentation, not counting two large projection screens on either side of the upper stage, Loggins and co. relied on the music and charisma, both of which resonated with the crowd to various levels, with more than half of the material joined with clapping, foot stomping and the occasional sing-along. It was this consistency that made the 2-hour performance more often than not, a delight.
Of note, Loggins has maintained his trademark cropped beard (though significantly grayed), a symbol of his stayed course, rarely diverting from his tried and true formula. This clearly still engages his core audience who exited with an approving buzz, seeking out their SUV’s and Ford Tauruses. While it isn’t likely he’ll ever be called “cool,” Loggins and his insistent fans prove he will “Keep The Fire” for a long time to come.
Kenny Loggins: www.kennyloggins.com/