In the admittedly very humorous 2000s Channel 101 series “Yacht Rock,” a fictitious Kenny Loggins serves as the protagonist as the navigates a career of creating remarkable tunes in the genres of folk, soul, and country pop.
A managerial character loosely inspired by Tommy Mottola schemes to get Loggins under his thumb to write hit Hollywood soundtrack themes, declaring him to be “a hit machine with the heart of a rock-and-roller.”
Elements of all of this surfaced in the background during Kenny’s recent sold-out two-night stand at Wolf Trap, where much of the audience turned up in soft captain’s hats in homage to the “yacht rock” phenomenon and Kenny engaged a talented cover act collective called the Yacht Rock Revue to open the show. Most remarkably, the Loggins show, billed as his farewell tour, was a massive guitar attack that did indeed reveal the heart of a rock-and-roller.
At Wolf Trap on June 15, the second of two nights, Kenny briefly acknowledged the sea of yachting caps during his remarks, when in between songs he shared stories of getting started in Hollywood, working with soul singer Michael McDonald, and becoming a father to five children over the years.
The tales of fatherhood lent themselves to the show’s midpoint, where Loggins explained the evolution of “Return to Pooh Corner,” and how he strove to create an album that both children and adults would enjoy. And the show was dominated by Loggins’ credits with McDonald, including “This Is It,” the breakup song that lends its name to Kenny’s farewell tour.
Watch the official music video for “This Is It” by Kenny Loggins on YouTube:
Loggins and McDonald also co-wrote “Heart to Heart” and “What a Fool Believes” — additional songs that appeared early in the setlist. Kenny recalled collaborating before ever even meeting McDonald in person: As he drove up to McDonald’s home, he heard him working on “What a Fool Believes” from outside the home and started filling in a melody before he introduced himself.
Kenny Loggins began his career as part of the prolific duo Loggins and Messina, and Kenny nodded to that time with the heartwarming and memorable “Danny’s Song.” And Loggins sealed his fate as a forever part of the American pop culture landscape with a string of hard rocking ’80s soundtrack hits. The 75-year-old singer-songwriter performed three of the most indelible of those hits as his first encore at Wolf Trap: “I’m Alright” from Caddy Shack, “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, and “Footloose” from the movie of the same name.
Watch the official music video for “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins on YouTube:
As mentioned previously, the concert was a true guitar show, and of course, nowhere was this more true than during the march of the movie soundtrack hits. The entire Loggins band was extraordinary but two members really leaped out — Scott Bernard with his flowing hair and guitar god licks kept everyone entertained from stage right and Rick Cowling often centered the show with his gregarious demeanor and impressive musicality. Rick impressed further by holding his own as a fair Michael McDonald substitute in vocal parts that called for McDonald’s famous soulful baritone.
Loggins himself was naturally terrific. He was spry, eloquent, and sharp as a tack. Every move he made was honed by 50 years of stagecraft and performance, and he was an indisputable master of the song.
The “Yacht Rock” farce may have played fast and loose with some facts, but one thing it surely got right: You need some Kenny Loggins in your life.
Here are some photos of Kenny Loggins performing at Wolf Trap on June 15, 2023. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.