After a year and a half of pandemic-related cancellations and postponements of concerts and more, the crowd inside MPAC in Morristown, NJ this October 8, 2021 evening is ready and waiting to experience a live performance by singer, songwriter, and musician Kenny Loggins.
Kenny Loggins was born in Everett, Washington in 1948, and his family settled in California. As a youngster, Kenny sang and played guitar. In the late-‘60s he studied at Pasadena City College, but before the end of the decade, Loggins joined Gator Creek, a band signed to Mercury Records. In 1970, the group recorded its eponymous first album which included an early version of “Danny’s Song,” a track which Loggins later re-recorded with Loggins & Messina. He also had a stint playing guitar with the ‘60s band, The Electric Prunes.
Loggins took a job as a staff writer for Wingate Music for $100 per week, and four of his songs ended up on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Uncle Charlie & His Dog Today. This brought him to the attention of former Buffalo Springfield and Poco member, Jim Messina, who was working as a staff producer at CBS. Messina intended to produce Loggins’ debut album, but after he ended up playing and singing on much of the recording, the two decided to form a duo. Loggins & Messina became one of most popular acts of the ’70s and enjoyed a string of successful albums including Sittin’ In — a recording that featured “Danny’s Song” and “House on Pooh Corner” — in addition to Loggins & Messina, Full Sail, Mother Lode, and more.
The duo disbanded in 1976 and Loggins went on to a successful solo career recording a number of million-selling albums including Celebrate Me Home, Nightwatch, and Keep the Fire. He also earned the nickname, “King of the Movie Soundtrack,” scoring Top 10 hits with such songs from films as “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack, “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, and the theme song from Footloose.
Following several ‘80s-era albums, in 1994, Loggins recorded a children’s album, Return to Pooh Corner, and followed it up in 2000 with a sequel, More Songs from Pooh Corner. In 2005, and again in 2009, he reunited with Messina for a pair of successful concert tours. Loggins’ latest recording, At the Movies, was released in 2021 and is a compilation of many of his movie soundtrack themes.
Inside the stunning MPAC auditorium, a short video, Kenny Loggins: At the Movies, warms up the crowd and features, among others, songs and film clips such as “For the First Time” from One Fine Day, “Meet Me Halfway” from Over the Top, and “Nobody’s Fool” from Caddyshack II.
Guitarists Scott Bernard and Rick Cowling, keyboardist Carl Herrgesell, bassist Adam Nitti, and drummer Dave Salinas take the stage and begin to play as Kenny Loggins, 73, enters playing mandolin on “Lady Luck.” His distinctive voice sounding as strong as ever, Loggins’ energy is evident as he sings and strums his mandolin. The band moves as they create this upbeat number’s funky groove while simultaneously punctuating Loggins’ soulful lead with tight vocal harmonies.
Music lovers in the crowd cheer, and Loggins welcomes the Jersey audience to MPAC announcing, “This is our first indoor show — we’ve done about six outdoor shows — and it’s great to be back,” before joking, “I’m trying to remember what I do up here!”
Colored lights rain down as Loggins launches into his 1982 hit, “Heart to Heart.” Inspired vocal harmonies support Kenny’s emotional lead, and audience members move in their seats to the irresistible beat of this rhythmic R&B number before responding with avid cheers and applause.
An audience member calls out, “We love you, Kenny!” as Loggins announces, “I think we’ll have some surprises for you tonight!”
Sitting at a stool, fingerpicking his acoustic guitar, cheers and whistles erupt as music lovers in the crowd recognize the introduction to “Danny’s Song.” The audience happily sings along on the beloved “Even though we ain’t got money/I’m so in love with you, honey” refrain before Scott Bernard plays a twangy acoustic guitar solo and Carl Hergesell’s barrelhouse piano solo fills the room.
Loggins then sings a new verse he wrote for his granddaughter which elicits sighs of “Ah” from the energized crowd on this folk-rock classic.
Loggins tells the audience about how he wrote “House at Pooh Corner” as a high school senior and even got permission from the head of the Walt Disney Company to use the characters in his song. As Loggins sits in the spotlight, the crowd joyfully joins in singing along on the song’s memorable “Count all the bees in the hive/Chase all the clouds from the sky” refrain before ending in eager applause and cheers.
Loggins responds with a mainly unplugged rendition of his 1978 hit with Stevie Nicks, “Whenever I Call You Friend.” The arrangement features five-part vocals on the “Sweet love showin’ us a heavenly light/I’ve never seen such a beautiful sight” chorus.
Loggins explains, “This is a new song I wrote for the San Diego Zoo Kids TV channel” before lights flash to the rockin’ beat of “The Great Adventure.” Kenny and his band clearly have fun playing this up-tempo tune with a percussive jungle-like vibe which gets heads in the crowd bopping to the beat.
Revealing that “What a Fool Believes,” The Doobie Brothers’ song he wrote with Michael McDonald, was recently named the “#1 Yacht Rock Song,” Loggins and Co. perform another composition he created with McDonald, his 1979 Grammy-winner, “This Is It.”
With Loggins’ lead vocal sounding as youthful and energetic as ever on this soft-rock classic, band members deliver expert Michael McDonald-inspired backup vocals. Hands in the crowd happily punch the air on the tune’s “This Is It” lyric, and by the end of the number, audience members are on their feet standing and cheering, the room alive with energy.
“Thank you!” exclaims Loggins before announcing, “This show is about to launch you into the ‘80s!” Dave Salinis’ percussion and Carl Herrgesell’s keyboard introduce 1987’s “Meet Me Halfway.” Loggins’ rich, full vocal captures the audience’s attention before he and guitarist Rick Cowling sing together in harmony. Scott Bernard solos lyrically on the guitar as rays of diffused light shine out over the audience.
Driving drums and ostinato strumming guitar underscore “Nobody’s Fool,” a number which features Loggins’ falsetto voice along with band members singing and rocking out with him to fervent cheers and applause.
After “I’m Free” — a tune which he reveals was inspired by reading the screenplay for the film, Footloose — Loggins announces, “This is a song I wrote for Top Gun. You can dance if you want to.” People immediately jump out of their seats and comply as Kenny and the band launch into “Playing With The Boys.” Immediately, the theater becomes a moving sea of rhythm while Loggins ignites the crowd from the stage, the crowd dancing and singing along as they’re transported back to the ’80s under swirling flashing lights.
Following energetic hoots and hollers, Loggins performs a highlight number of the evening with his red-hot rendition of “I’m Alright” which has the entire crowd is on its feet singing, dancing, and clapping. Large happy face balloons appear and bounce in the air among audience members under colored lights, and Scott Bernard plays a wailing slide guitar solo on this country rocker which has the audience joyfully singing, “I’m alright/Nobody worry ‘bout me/Why you got to give me a fight/Can’t you just let it be.”
No one in the house considers taking a seat as Loggins and the band seamlessly segue into 1986’s “Danger Zone.” After shouting “Come on!” Loggins holds his mic out for audience members to sing along and they enthusiastically join him on the “Highway to the danger zone/Ride into the danger zone” refrain before Scott Bernard’s and Rick Cowling’s guitars wail.
As the band continues to rock, Loggins picks up an electric guitar and heads downstage to play the iconic twangy guitar intro to “Footloose.” A mass of energy, audience members’ hands are in the air as people sing, “Now I gotta cut loose/Footloose/Kick off your Sunday shoes” and dance like they haven’t danced in ages. At the conclusion, a roar of cheers rises from the crowd and the band takes leave of the stage. Music lovers in the audience raise their cellphones — flashlights on — demanding an encore.
Loggins returns to the stage inquiring, “You having fun yet?” Percussive guitar strumming leads into his first encore, 1991’s “Conviction of the Heart,” a rock ballad with a message. Pictures of nature scroll behind Loggins as he croons, “Only one earth/Only one sky/Only one world” and gets the crowd singing and clapping along on this feel-good anthem.
Loggins and Co. take leave of the stage and return once more for a second encore where Carl Herrgesell plays a bluesy piano accompaniment behind Loggins, whose rich tenor fills the theater with warmth on another highlight of tonight’s show — a soulful rendition of 1977’s “Celebrate Me Home.” Loggins serenades the crowd until the entire band kicks in on this meaningful power waltz. Scott Bernard plays a guitar solo for the ages that brings a roar from the crowd as they inhale the music. Accompanied by Herrgesell, Loggins invites all the ladies in the audience to sing the melodic “Celebrate/Celebrate/Celebrate me home” descant as he soulfully scat-sings over it. Next, he has all the men join in singing the “Please celebrate me home” melody as he and the ladies continue to sing their parts. Soon, the entire band kicks in to bring the song to a grand finale and Loggins ends by pantomiming a “swinging a bat” motion as if to signal “home run!”
After introducing his fellow band members, music lovers in the packed house cheer to indicate they want more. Loggins responds by saying, “Thank you so much. This is fun! We appreciate it!” before concluding this evening’s show with “Forever.” Starting off softly, then booming rich and full, Loggins’ prodigious vocal talent shines on this power ballad, bringing the crowd to its feet when the full band kicks in and he cries, “Forever in my heart/Forever here you’ll be/And even when I’m gone/You’ll be near to me.”
As the audience cheers, guitars hold out their final twanging notes before the band takes a well-earned bow and Loggins exclaims, “Thank you, New Jersey!”
As we make our way out of the MPAC auditorium, we chat with several music lovers in the crowd who share their thoughts on tonight’s performance. Declares Kathy from Stanhope, “I love Kenny Loggins — he brought back so many memories!” recalling, “Even though I was in high school in the ’80s, I also knew every one of his songs from the ‘70s.” Exclaims Susan from Hackettstown, “It was exciting — Kenny Loggins’ energy was amazing! I’m an ’80s music fan, and I had so much fun. I really needed this — it really made me feel good,” before concluding, “I’d come every single week if I could!”
John from Bedminister reveals, “I’m a child of the ’70s. These songs brought back wonderful memories — and even some tears of joy,” acknowledging, “It was really great to see a familiar face singing beautiful songs with familiar melodies.” Gennessa from Bedminster agrees, adding, “I was surprised by all the songs Kenny Loggins did — I didn’t realize they were all his hits,” before noting, “and the band was great, too — they’re so talented!”
Whereas Robin from Florham Park considers tonight’s experience, “a wonderful walk down memory lane,” Beth from Cedar Knolls asserts, “I’m just so happy to be out — I could stay all night!”
Lastly, we chat with the members of a family from East Hanover. Insists grandmother Stephanie, “Kenny Loggins still looks the same and has the same amazing voice!” before declaring, “This is the best music in the world! We even brought our six-year-old granddaughter to her very first concert. She had front row seats.”
Stephanie’s granddaughter, Skylar, rates this — her first concert — two big “thumbs up,” before exclaiming, “Kenny Loggins waved at me, and I danced with my grandpa, too!”
Skylar’s grandfather, Mark, proclaims, “We all loved this show!” Confessing, “I actually cried a little during ‘House of Pooh Corner,’” Mark continues, “but God bless Kenny Loggins! Thanks to him, I got to dance with my grandaughter and bring her to her first concert,” before concluding with a smile, “I’m in heaven!”
To learn more about Kenny Loggins, please go to kennyloggins.com. For information on upcoming concerts — including Rosanne Cash on Nov. 10, Michael Bolton on Dec. 3, and Dennis DeYoung: The Grand Illusion 40th Anniversary Tour on Dec. 11 — please click on mayoarts.org.
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