All the different facets of Kenny Loggins' career were on display Monday at, of all places, the Neil Simon Theater, where he began a six-night run.
Kenny's a pretty likeable guy. His slightly self-deprecating stage patter charmed the pants off the opening-night audience (made up "mostly of my record company," he said) and set the tone for an enjoyable evening of songs.
First of all, the lighting and the sound were tremendous. The band's playing was strong but never overpowered Loggins, who was in great voice, backed by bass, drums, guitar and two keyboard players (one of whom doubled on sax).
The show mixed tunes from his latest LP, "Back to Avalon," his hits as "king of the movie soundtracks" ("Danger Zone," "Footloose," "I'm Alright," "Meet Me Halfway") and acoustic versions of some songs from Loggins & Messina. The three-part-harmony singing really shone in this segment.
The biggest number of the night, however, was the ballad "Celebrate Me Home," which had Loggins vocally trading riffs with the sax players and the staid crowd up on their feet applauding wildly.
Kenny Loggins loves what he does and who he does it for.
At his Broadway debut Tuesday at the Neil Simon Theater, Loggins did a warm, loving, incredibly sincere and downright honest show, without coming off like a Boy Scout.
The music was polished, the show was slick. Loggins led his five-man back-up band through every period of his 20-year career, from the early "House at Pooh Corner," a simple but lovely folk song, to material from his most recent LP, "Back to Avalon." An irrepressible raconteur, he introduced almost every song with a glimpse of the what or who or why he wrote it.
The acoustic set mid-show was beautiful. Loggins sat on the rim of the stage, sandwiched between his guitarist, Guy Thomas, and keyboardman, Steve Wood. The trio covered the Del Vikings' "Come and Go," the Beatles' "I've Just Seen A Face" and much of his own delicate material, such as "Danny's Song."
The entire band is wonderful, but if you see the show keep an eye out for Marc Russo on saxophone; he is terrific, especially on "Celebrate Me Home." During the close of this piece, Loggins scats while Russo blows - it was the night's showstopper, earning the band the first of its three standing ovations.
Unlike almost every other successful performing songwriter of his generation, Kenny Loggins has maintained a flourishing recording career without the benefit of a sharply defined public image. The singer, who opened an eight-performance engagement at the Neil Simon Theater (250 West 52d Street) on Tuesday evening, has always exuded a California-style boy-next-door ingenuousness. But neither on record nor in concert has he ever seemed to represent a distinct cultural constituency in the way that performers like Bruce Springsteen, John Denver or Barry Manilow so obviously do.
In the early 1970's, as half of the Loggins and Messina team, Mr. Loggins helped popularize a nostalgic good-timey folk-pop whose eclectic influences ran from the Kingston Trio to the Beatles. Since going solo in 1976, he has become one of the most successful writers and singers of movie songs, including the hits ''I'm Alright'' (from ''Caddyshack''), the title song from ''Footloose,'' ''Danger Zone'' (from ''Top Gun'') and ''Meet Me Halfway'' (from ''Over the Top'').
Especially in his recent songwriting collaborations with Michael McDonald, Mr. Loggins's writing has grown more angular and rhythmically complex.
While Mr. Loggins skillfully presented the different aspects of his musical personality at his opening-night show, sandwiching his more intimate folkish material between bursts of highly technological pop-rock, he still remained somewhat unfocused.
During the flashy rock-oriented segments, Mr. Loggins's thin but supple voice was frequently buried in the instrumentation. Although essentially a folk singer, Mr. Loggins has always tried to push toward a harder rock style that challenges the physical limits of his emotionally fervent singing. He has also refined a tricky style of ornamental embellishment that uses his well-developed falsetto register. This talent for vocal embroidery was showcased to especially fine effect in an extended voice-and-saxophone coda to the song ''Celebrate Me Home.''
The evening's warmest moments came when the singer, flanked by several band members, sat on the edge of the stage and conducted an acoustic musicale that blended vintage rock-and-roll songs (''I've Just Seen a Face'' and ''Come Go With Me'') with Loggins and Messina favorites (''Your Mama Don't Dance,'' ''House at Pooh Corner'' and ''Danny's Song'').