Through The Fog: Loggins/Messina


But it’s Loggins and friggin’ Messina. I’m going anyway. I haven’t had a chance to see them since the mid ’70s. So now I’m in my seat about fifteen minutes before the opening act is scheduled to start. The stage is set with a riser across the full length, set back about fifteen feet. Behind where the musicians will be, there are four, erector set looking arches, pointing to a circular video screen suspended above the drummer, center stage.

The screen was running a tape loop of ads for past and current works from tonight’s artists, complete with web site addresses and twitter screen names. At the bottom of each frame were the italicized words, Available at all merch booths. Another bad sign. Maybe I should start preparing myself for a schlock-fest of oldies and rehashed soundtrack tunes. Now comes the surprise. They were everything I would have wanted from a Loggins & Messina show plus a Beatles tune! These two haven’t missed a beat in thirty years.


Let me back up just a hair. The Gabe Dixon band opened the show, right on time. Dixon is L&M’s keyboard player, but here it’s just a piano and microphone for him. Accompanied by one man band John O’Ritz (He used a guitar with no strings as a percussion instrument on more than one occasion), Dixon masterfully handled a seven song set of mostly introspective, melodic story songs.

His influences are many; Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Hornsby to name a few, and he did them proud. His songs are well crafted tales of woe, heartache and long distance romance, with just a touch of whimsy here and there to keep it interesting. After intermission and the subliminally implanted trip to the merch booth, I took my seat to see what the real Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina had left in them.

With cowboy hats and acoustic guitars, they took their place onstage, seated atop stools to open the set with two gems, Danny’s Song and The House At Pooh Corner. With minimal accompaniment by the rest of the band (Steve Distanislao on drums, Dixon on keyboards, George Hawkins on bass, Big Jim Wheeler on horns, Gary Oleyar on violin and Steve Nieves on sax, flute, percussion and just about any other instrument he could get his hands on) L&M led the audience sing along through the first verse of each song. Then they harmonized, like one voice, and brought that lump in the throat you get every once in a while when things come together that perfectly. They then switched to their electric guitars, lost the stools and started to party. There were so many highlights it was almost embarrassing.


Early in the set, they played the evening’s only non-Loggins & Messina song, Two Of Us by the Beatles. They picked a good one there. “You and I have memories, as long as there’s a road that stretches out ahead”. Hearing their two voices blend for this oh so poignant lyric brought lump number two. I swear they were hitting notes that I thought were difficult when we all were thirty years younger.

They switched out their guitars and passed the songs back and forth. Long Tailed Cat saw the band stretching their chops a bit for the first time, especially Oleyar’s fiddle. Wheeler and Nieves stalked the stage during Listen To A Country Song/Holiday Hotel, dueling it out center stage, one bad ass riff after another, till they finished the medley with a blues crescendo of horns that garnered them the first of many standing ovations.

After a teasingly soulful and short Georgia On My Mind acapella verse from Loggins, the band lit into Back to Georgia and boogie-woogied the crowd back onto their feet behind some of Messina’s best guitar work since the Poco days. Speaking of Poco, we didn’t hear any of their songs. Nor did we hear any of Kenny Loggins solo work, new or old. They mentioned between songs that they had new albums available at the merch booth and left it at that. There was no room for anything that didn’t bear the unmistakable sound of Loggins AND Messina.


Next up was what L&M fans refer to as ‘the Trilogy’. Just as no Led Zeppelin fan can imagine hearing Living Loving Maid without first hearing Heartbreaker, nor vice versa. While a separate song, their very essence is in their inclusion with each other, in other words, they just sound better together. Loggins & Messina’s Trilogy consists of Loving Me, Make A Woman Feel Wanted and Peace Of Mind.

Messina noodled a bit, and then the band joined in at the outset of Loving Me. The crowd rose as one, arms raised and most singing along. The band also kicked it up a notch, with the horn section again stepping in and tearing it up. MAWFW changed the tempo and had those still standing really dancing in place.

But where tonight’s trilogy really excelled was during the final tune, Peace Of Mind. With Loggins on the mellow vocal lead, Wheeler and Nieves stepped to the mike with a couple of flutes and set the mood. Throughout the song, Loggins vocals increased in intensity. The last third of the song saw Loggins on his knees, bent backwards, bringing it up from deep, deep. Like a gospel singer in rapture, Kenny scatted and filled and practically wept till the very final line. The band stops cold, Messina stepped to the mike to join Loggins for the final “Peace of mind” and the third lump appears.


After the band caught their collective breath during Be Free, they fired up Angry Eyes. For the next sixteen minutes and forty two seconds (damn right I timed it) they reminded me of why they were so much fun to see in concert. While Loggins kept a steady rhythm, Messina traded licks with pretty much each of the other musicians, giving the whole band a chance to riff off of each other.

Having been steadily playing on this tour since August, they have honed this to an intense jam full of energy. Messina changed to Mandolin for a while. There were more flutes, fiddle and assorted percussion instruments. Amazing stuff. Band intros preceded the set’s closer, You Need A Man from 1973’s Full Sail release. This they also stretched beyond the 15 minute mark before the big finish and the taking of bows. It was then I noticed, from my perch in the balcony, that the aisles were indeed full of dancers.

Since my bad back was telling me it was time to shift around, I decided to join the dancing masses, if for nothing other than a cover to get better pictures, but to also enjoy the show from where I like to enjoy shows best: Up front! I managed to get to the rim of stage right. Pulled the camera out and, with perfect timing, out came the band for their three song encore.


From either side of the stage, roadies appeared with kettle drums. Nieves to one side, Wheeler to the other, they hammered out the first notes of Vahevala. Again the jam was on, as the band clocked this one in at almost half an hour. And when that song ended, without missing a beat, they kicked into the early seventies anthemic, Your Mama Don’t Dance. A party favorite of mine since high school, this performance was equal parts intense rocker and nostalgic sing along. Loggins and Messina high fived the audience when they could reach, in between their respective solos and musical responsibilities.

The band came out one more time for a really well played version of Nobody But You. Then, with more high fives and the requisite full band line bowing, they were off for the next town in a tour that has until late November to enjoy the party. I say this because, in my new found close proximity to the performers, I could see that their smiles were every bit as wide and sincere as those on the audiences faces.

If I have a regret about this show, it’s that I didn’t bring the wife. I mean, I know the Dylan show was less than a month ago and all, and she really liked that. But she really would have enjoyed this show. Maybe not the sneaking down to the front row part (she’s more of a “I’ll stay here, you tell me how it was.” kind of gal), but definitely all of the music. Might have even sung along, you never know.

Rock On Through the Fog,

A.J. Crandall

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14 Responses

  1. I just love reading AJ’s Reviews. They are so well wrote! It’s always like I was there and I know if I want to see who-ever he is talking about. i would love to sit down with him and talk “Concert’s” over some coffee..

  2. Well done review!!! I saw this show in Kansas City the end of August, then in Council Bluffs, IA the next night. You nailed the review, I couldn’t add a thing. There were a couple of subtle differences in the two shows, but the amazing musicians and that horn piece in Angry Eyes was the best I have ever witnessed in my life. We did get a backstage meet and greet in KC which was way cool. Those two left it all on the stage…..they were spent, but really nice….got a few pictures and autographs too!

    I totally lucked out with front row center in KC and front row slightly left at Council Bluffs….not even 8 feet away from them….Yes, I had a great time.

  3. Thanks for the great review. I would have caught the L&M performance in Vancouver if I had read this earlier. Would have really liked to catch that Vahevala jam–from where I love to catch the shows–upfront!

  4. I was lucky enough to see them on my Bday this Oct. in San Diego. Every thing he says is true and more. I have followed Kenny since the 70’s and attended many of his concerts through the years. This was so different,so special and I WANT MORE MORE MORE!

  5. Awesome and spot on review! I had never seen them play together in the 70’s and waited 30 years and it finaly happened. August of 05 for my b-day, my wish came true. In Atlanta at the incredible Chastain Amphitheater, a spectacular show, everything I ever could have imagined it would be and more (even in the rain that year)!
    This years tour deserved a more special attendance with the man that had me growing up on L&M tunes, my dad, and the man I have shared those same tunes with as he grew up, my son. Yep, 3 generations attended what I think was the 2nd or 3rd show of this years tour, and best of all, in my dad’s home town of Portsmouth, VA. What a Great experience!
    I was even lucky enough to catch them again on this same tour back in Atlanta at Chastain, no rain this time! Like most everyone posting here, just can’t get enough of these guys, and there is NOTHING that comes close to this kind of music these days.
    THANKS for keepin it real L&M

  6. Excellent review. My husband and I saw them in October in Saratoga, CA (SF bay area). They cut the set list short a couple of songs (no Nobody But You and no Long Tail Cat) probably because Kenny was sick. They themselves never told the audience Kenny was sick, but I was sitting beside someone who had just seen them in Modesto the night before and had gotten a meet and greet then…she said Kenny was really sick at the Modesto meet and greet. At the encore it looked like the band was ready to play another song (probably Nobody But You), but Kenny and Jim motioned for them to come up for a bow. They looked slightly surprised. I was in the front, so could see their expressions. Most of the audience probably didn’t notice a thing. But a great show nonetheless.

    Sure enough, a couple of days later they cancelled Oakland and postponed two other shows due to illness. The reason I mention this is because even though Kenny might not have FELT 100% in Saratoga, he gave 100% and the performance of L&M was once again flawless. The rest of the audience would not have known. I knew only because someone who had seen L&M the day before told me.

    I saw L&M twice in 2005 reunion tour (Lake Tahoe and Berkeley). Their 2005 set list was was about 21 songs, 2 sets, and lasted over 2 hours. And it was magnificent and magical. This 2009 tour has most of the same musicians, about 14 songs (from my count), 1 set, and is about an hour and a half. It also is incredible, but this is a great band, these are great songs, and there is a lot more music they could play, like they did in 2005.
    But I’m happy just to have them come around again. They are a real treat!

    Will be seeing them again in Lancaster, CA in late November. It’s a 5-hour drive, a vacation day from work, and every bit worth it! Like someone else on this blog wrote: I want MORE, MORE, MORE! I hope they keep doing this every couple of years.

  7. I have been a L & M fan since their start. I don’t think that they are coming to Asia anytime soon so this was the next best thing…Fog or no Fog, please keep rocking AJ

  8. Oh and please use the word “crew” or “tech” instead of “roadie”….. that word went out years ago…..

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