A version of my review originally appeared at soundcheck.ocregister.com
Last year’s big screen remake of “Footloose” suddenly brought Kenny Loggins – whose name is equally synonymous with the original 1984 film as star Kevin Bacon's due to the No. 1 theme song - back into public consciousness for a brief period.
Blake Shelton recorded a rollicking cover of the title track for the updated soundtrack and the pair made some television appearances together.
With any luck, Loggins will return to the limelight in a bigger way this fall when the debut album by his fine new folk/rock band Blue Sky Riders - pictured above - arrives. They were the opening act at City National Grove of Anaheim on Wednesday night.
The highly engaging, 90-minute show was well-attended. It covered many facets of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s career, which now spans more than five decades. An introductory montage of archival clips on the screens concluded with “Danny’s Song.” Before the Loggins & Messina classic finished, the band appeared onstage to do the job.
“It’s great to be back here; I love this room,” said Loggins, before delving into the comforting soft rock of “Return to Pooh Corner,” off the same named 1994 children’s CD. He explained the genesis of the tune (and also would later for other selections). Fans dutifully sang along loudly.
One of two medleys began with L&M’s slinky 1972 hit “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and included Loggins’ early influences/old favorites by Peggy Lee, The Coasters, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger and surprisingly, Prince. On the latter, he humorously strained to reach the helium high notes.
Those who thought Loggins couldn’t rock out was proven wrong during the lean and mean L&M song “Angry Eyes” and other eye openers in the set. Blue Sky Riders singer Georgia Middleman subbed for Stevie Nicks as Loggins’ duet partner on a warm, folk-leaning arrangement of “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” (apparently a rarity at his concerts).
Following a funny anecdote about penning the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald and a dead-on impression, Loggins recalled the more serious inspiration for “This is It.” Here, it was played in a stark, more dramatic fashion like Loggins’ 1993 live CD, Outside: From the Redwoods.
An extended “Celebrate Me Home,” saw Loggins pulling out all the stops. He sang soulfully (initially accompanied by piano) and worked both sides of the Grove stage. Heading into the crowd, Loggins was accosted by overzealous male fan wanting to snap a picture and told him, “Uh, I’m kind of busy here.” Then the singer climbed onto a table (not something you expect from a 64-year-old), the lead guitarist did a solo and Loggins traded scat lines with him.
Middleman and husband Gary Burr (the other core BSR band member) provided robust backing vocals on environmentally themed “Conviction of the Heart.” A bluesy two-fer from the “Caddyshack” soundtrack featured a minor changeup on the rousing “I’m Alright.”
Loggins’ signature hit “Footloose” was fun and feisty as ever. More blues came in the form of Robert Johnson-via-Cream’s “Crossroads.” The band did an impressive job.
Blue Sky Riders’ half hour lead off spot showcased the trio’s marvelous harmonies and easy rapport.
The ebullient Middleman and Burr are accomplished country and pop tunesmiths with multiple big name hits to their credits. She even has a composition on the new Kenny Chesney release. Loggins first met Burr a couple years back while putting together the underrated 2008 disc, How About Now.
Fortunately, they resurrected the title track. The winsome live version was upbeat. Middleman took the lead on Faith Hill-type ballad “Little Victories” and traded vocals with Loggins for the resonant country rocker “Too Old to Dream.” The band capped things off with an enthusiastic cover of The Beatles’ “Help!”
Kenny Loggins, City National Grove of Anaheim, June 20, 2012
Setlist: Danny’s Song/Return to Pooh Corner/(Medley: Your Mama Don’t Dance/Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll/Young Blood/Chain of Fools/Fever/Kiss)/Angry Eyes/Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’/This is It/Leap of Faith/Celebrate Me Home/Conviction of the Heart/Mr. Night/I’m Alright
Encore: (Medley: Danger Zone/Footloose)/Crossroads/Forever