Rock and Roll Heaven

Highway to the Danger Zone

I recently went to my first Kenny Loggins show and it was life-changing

I am not a Kenny Loggins fan, per se. Which is not to say I think I'm too cool for Kenny Loggins. As a matter of fact, I'm so uncool that I always preferred the Anne Murray version of his hit "Danny's Song," a cover of such Canadian blandness that it made Kenny's own version seem gritty in comparison.

I can't remember what vanilla-pop I was obsessed with in the '70s and early '80s instead of Kenny. The Eagles? Billy Joel? I could lie and say I was into the Ramones, but I'm beyond trying to impress people with hipster credentials I can't back up. But last summer I went to my first Kenny Loggins live show in Sun Valley, Idaho. And it was life-changing.

My husband and I have vacationed in the mountains of Sun Valley several times over the years, first with our kids and now with our dog. Evenings are quiet there, so if there's a concert in town, we usually go. And if it's a concert by some old fart rocker—as it usually is—so much the better.

We often joke that the fulltime residents of Sun Valley are old people and their parents. On this sultry evening, the women in the concert pavilion outnumbered the men, but then Kenny always was the yacht-rocker of choice for the ladies—with his feathery waves and wolfish smile. I must say, in general, the crowd looked pretty damn good. Coming from Los Angeles, I sometimes forget how nice-looking older women can be when they don't pull and inject and otherwise tinker with their faces.

Unlike Coachella, there's no ink in this crowd—a detail that delineates my generation from the next. Unless you were in the military, or spent time in prison, you did not get tatted up. There will be no "molly" overdoses during tonight's show, no fuggy cloud of weed hovering over our heads—the worst that might happen is a bad reaction to mixing Lipitor with chardonnay (from one of the two bars where everyone lines up politely and tips well).

But some things don't change—for instance, groupies. Here, they are in their fifties. Identifiable because they still bother with mascara. Like all groupies, they stumble in a little late and flutter about for a few moments, calling attention to themselves. They're squeezed into flimsy tank-toppy things, the straps digging into the loose flesh of their backs like piano wire. I salute their efforts.

Kenny takes the stage, still slender and handsome, as opposed to many of his peers, who either blew up or became skeletal ruins. He retains the humble charm of a cowboy poet. I'm relieved when his first notes ring clear and familiar. I've been to my share of reunion tours, and it's almost existentially painful to listen to an idol of your youth bark his way through tunes unrecognizably reconfigured in a lower key.

He opens with some sentimental sing-alongs, "House at Pooh Corner" and "Celebrate Me Home," (on which Kenny scats in a falsetto which falls short of being Timberlakean, but is still pretty impressive). When we all join in the chorus of "Danny's Song"—"Even though we ain't got money / I'm so in love with you honey"—I cringe. Because if there's one thing this crowd has, it's money. These seats set us back $250 a pop, which I fretted over, but it's our anniversary, and the concert is for charity.

I'm not prepared, when at the opening notes of "I'm Alright," a song I remember from the movie "Caddyshack," dozens of arthritic women struggle to their feet and storm the stage, creating a sort of AARP mosh pit. Ironic that the theme to a smutty comedy that ridicules aging white country-clubbers is the rallying cry for a gaggle of aging, white country-clubbers, but there you have it. The women crowd the lip of the stage, two and three deep, their spindly fingers reaching and waving, bedazzled with enough gemstones to fund a small military coup.

Kenny segues into another movie theme, "Danger Zone" from "Top Gun." Nobody, myself included, actually knows the words to that song. We are even vague on the chorus, singing "bla, bla, bla, bla ... Danger Zone." My mind drifts to memories of Maverick and Goose. To Tom Cruise, and the newest "Mission Impossible" movie. And how when I saw it, I could not stop worrying that Cruise, who is my age, was going to throw his back out.

I'm yanked bank into the present by the opening chords of "Footloose." The entire audience, myself included, loses their collective shit. More seniors flood the aisles, with their titanium knees and pacemakers and possible well-disguised adult undergarments; blankets draped over their shoulders (as temperatures have dropped to 64 degrees, and their blood is as thin as the mountain air).

The concert pavilion becomes as ebulliently joyful as an old-time evangelist revival. Because there are no young people to shame us; no children to sneer or mock or make us feel foolish. We haven't lost our groove. Our groove is here, and we are in it.

It isn't until the second encore of "Your Momma Don't Dance and Your Daddy Don't Rock 'n' Roll" that I feel a pang. Partly because I'm out of breath after the "Footloose" madness, and partly because I realize, of course your momma don't dance, neither does your daddy, because if your momma and daddy are still above ground, they are 100 years old. Perhaps this same feeling sweeps through the crowd, or maybe they are simply winded, but even the mosh pit up front starts losing steam.

Cognizant that another dance number could lead to a 911 call, Kenny closes the set with "Forever," which is a schmaltzy nostalgic goodbye song of the sort played at weddings (and funerals). He's given a standing ovation, and if anyone still owned a Bic lighter, they'd hoist it; but we aren't about to do that ridiculous thing where everyone waves their cellphone flashlight app. We have our dignity.

The audience files out slowly, bound together by our joy in still being able to find pleasure, to lose ourselves with others, to face our impending mortality with a snapping finger and a swiveling hip. To move forward and ... "bla, bla, bla, bla ... Danger Zone."

Tags: music