Monday, May 28, 2012 at 10:06 a.m.
Hard Rock Live Hollywood
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Better than: Loggins and Messina, or at least damn close.
It's hard to believe that its been 40 years since the record-buying masses first became aware of Kenny Loggins
. Originally one of a multitude of sensitive early '70s West Coast singer/songwriter types, his showbiz savvy found him in the soundtrack biz and rocketing his way to the big time with songs palatable enough for both FM radio and hipper adult contemporary environs. It's no surprise then to find that over the course of an hour and a half concert, he remains an amiable showman, adroit at earnestly engaging his fans by simply stringing together his hits.
Cool and charismatic in a black three-piece suit and contrasting white shirt, Loggins still looks ruggedly handsome even at age 64, the tireless troubadour still touted songs that were written and recorded three or four decades back. This is, of course, what one would expect, especially given his hefty catalogue and the fact that the only new Loggins offerings of late are songs written and recorded specifically for the children's market. (The one he performed here was a tender addendum to one of his earliest hits entitled "Return to Pooh Corner.") And while he kicked off Sunday night's show on a quieter note -- working through opener "Conviction of the Heart," a mellow but momentum-gaining "Whenever I Call You Friend," an inevitable "Danny's Sing" and the aforementioned ode to Pooh Bear -- it was clear, the more amplified entries were what the nearly sold out audience came to hear.
Naturally, his tenure with partner Jim Messina got the mandatory airing, beginning with a bluesy take on "You Mama Don't Dance" which evolved into a rock 'n' history lesson, starting with a segue into Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll," proceeding through brief snippets of "Youngblood," "Chain of Fools," and "Fever," then ending with the falsetto intro into Prince's "Kiss."
He followed with an extended jam that built off of "Angry Eyes" and almost altered it entirely. It turned into an excellent showcase for his three piece backing band, a group so adroit and effectively self-contained that it not only replicated all the trademark arrangements but often expanded on them as well, giving the concert a far more rock-worthy edge than the bigger ensembles he typically employs. They were so fine in fact, that when they launched into a cover of "Crossroads" as part of the first encore, they not only echoed Cream's classic arrangement, but carried it convincingly.
The fact that Loggins has surrounded himself with some outstanding hired hands also gives him the opportunity not only to inflate the arrangements ("Celebrate Me Home" becomes a veritable tour-de-force, as does "I'm Alright") but to strip away the extraneous elements that might have otherwise found him veering into MOR territory. That's not to say he doesn't have his Manilow moments. The concert's second and final encore "Forever" found him strolling the stage, mike in hand, looking ever so suspiciously like a Vegas showman.
Still, though the audience would likely have indulged him. He mostly eschewed the schmaltzy sentiments. Even when he went into a lengthy chat about his songwriting experience with Michael McDonald, he managed to retain a self-effacing tone. "The first song we wrote together was 'What a Fool Believes," he recalled. "So we asked ourselves, 'how do we follow that?' We decided we wouldn't even try, and instead we'd write a really shitty song." That said, he went into a feisty version of "This Is It." "Some shitty song," he commented once the song was over.
Thankfully, Loggins' vocals remain as fluid as ever, and while he mostly kept to his gritty midrange, he occasionally dipped into a soulful growl and even soared to a high falsetto. Consequently, he was able to overplay the more energized hits like "Danger Zone" and "Footloose," both of which appeared as part of the initial encore. He also gave his backing musicians the opportunity to share some microphone time, allowing him to booster vocal duties for the songs' benefit. And naturally, the audience also took its cue, singing whole portions of certain tunes without any nudging whatsoever. For both the artist and his audience, it became a celebration indeed.
Personal bias: I was never a diehard devotee, and wasn't even that big a fan of Loggins and Messina. I have to admit however, that Loggins puts on as polished and professional a show as any I've had opportunity to witness recently.
Random detail: Overheard from a guy in back of us: "I thought Kenny Loggins was dead. I hadn't heard from him in such a long time."
By the way: Most of those in attendance drove to the concert through a torrential rainstorm. That they were willing to do so demonstrated that South Florida fans still hold Loggins in high regard.
"Conviction of the Heart"
"Whenever I Call You Friend"
"Return to Pooh Corner"
"Your Mama Don't Dance (with rock 'n' roll medley)"
"This Is It"
"Celebrate Me Home"
"Don't Fight It"
"Crossroads" (Cream cover)
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