This review was first posted on the Orange County Register Web site on Saturday, March 26, 2011.
When Kenny Loggins performed an hour-long set at Pacific Amphitheatre in July 2007, the show was not only short on emotional power but further ruined by a crowd more interested in drinking beers and being annoying than enjoying the music. At that gig, I moved out of my seats in the orchestra section and went to the largely empty rear area to escape chatterbugs around me.
Things couldn’t have been more different at the singer-songwriter’s return Friday night (March 25, 2011) before a faithful crowd at a sold-out City National Grove of Anaheim. Even the performance of specific songs were worlds apart: the acoustic “Return to Pooh Corner,” with its wistful lyrics and subtle melody, landed with a thud before the party people of 3 1/2 years ago, but here it was a touching and poignant gem early in a mostly winning two-hour concert.
The show began with projected slides showing Loggins as a child and teen, then with Jim Messina in the 1970s, and finally more recent photos of him with other musicians and his own children. The passage of time and highlights on the fast-moving road of life ultimately was the theme of this night, with Loggins, now 63, and his excellent three-man band performing an 18-song set chronicling his music from early ’70s hits as part of Loggins & Messina to solo smashes he penned with Michael McDonald (“This Is It”) and Bob James (“Celebrate Me Home,” bolstered by Loggins’ still superb voice) through his well-known ’80s material forever linked to the popular movie soundtracks that spawned them.
I continue to be a greater fan of Loggins’ acoustic-flavored California folk-rock; “Angry Eyes” was particularly strong, with lead guitarist Scott Bernard displaying some Stephen Stills-styled fretwork. But a rocking “I’m Alright” (from Caddyshack), “Danger Zone” (Top Gun) and “Footloose” admittedly made for an energetic encore.
Yet all three were outdistanced by a powerful rendition of Cream‘s blues-rock version of “Crossroads,” with both Bernard and Loggins displaying some flashy guitar work. Loggins closed the night with a slow, moving rendition of the jazz-tinged ballad “Forever,” a song he recently performed on Hit Man Returns: David Foster & Friends, a tribute concert released on CD and DVD earlier this month.
Opening the show was singer-songwriter Malea McGuinness, a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter who pleased the audience with easy-on-the-ears music recalling some of the best female singers of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. McGuinness’ far-reaching voice at times evoked Rosanne Cash, while her songs captured the freewheeling spirit of early Sheryl Crow and Paula Cole.