Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s ‘POPS LIVE’
Robinson Center Music Hall
Though many Arkansas Symphony Orchestra season ticket holders thought they were going to the symphony, they ended up at a rock concert.
Well, that’s not completely accurate. Conductor David Itkin and the ASO opened the “Pops, Live!” show featuring Kenny Loggins with a lovely rendition of “America the Beautiful,” went boldly on with a “Star Trek” medley, and concluded with selections from the musical "Mame." This portion of the concert lasted only half an hour, allowing plenty of time for an ample set from ’70s folk rocker-turned ’80s hit maker Loggins.
His four piece pop-rock band started the show as Loggins made his entrance through the audience while singing “If You Believe.” The ASO sat idle during the opening number, but added sweetness to the slick versions of “Heart to Heart” and “This Is It” that followed. Not content to play a 30-year-old parade of hits, Loggins was quick to incorporate less familiar and freshly written music into his performance.
Five songs into the set, the band really caught its stride as Loggins announced that it was “time for some serious reminiscing.” Leading the way on acoustic guitar, Loggins played a slowed down and bluesy version of “Your Mama Don’t Dance (And Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll).” The song soon morphed into a medley that led from “Old Time Rock & Roll” to “Chain of Fools” and “Young Blood,” before ending with an unlikely snippet of “Kiss” by Prince. It should be noted that Loggins possesses an impressive vocal range that served him well all evening, even when evoking The Purple One.
The Symphony was either idle or irrelevant for much of the evening, as Loggins’ band — drums, electric bass, electric guitar and keyboards — played as the ASO sat and watched. At other times the dynamics were such that the ASO was simply overpowered with volume. When introducing “Live and Licking,” the tune co-written with Clint Black that Loggins called his “theme song for the night,” he made a cheeky comment to the orchestra to “feel free to smile” before wondering aloud “if they’re like this at home.” This seemed a bit of a low blow to the captive audience sharing the stage, and one wonders if Loggins would have preferred if the string section talked amongst themselves while the brass players struck up a card game and the woodwinds played craps. Given the opportunity to shine, however, the symphonic accompaniment gave a depth and lushness to the music, most notably on “Now and Then” and the environmentalist anthem “Conviction of the Heart.”
Two odes to parenting and childhood, “Return To Pooh Corner” and “Danny’s Song,” got the sing-along treatment from a willing audience. The irony meter redlined as the well-dressed, middle-aged bourgeoisie sang the “even though we ain’t got money” line from “Danny’s Song” in unison, but the sentimental sweetness of both songs made for the high point of the evening.
The concert ended predictably with a barrage of Top 40 hits: a funky version of “Caddyshack” theme “I’m Alright” that leaned heavily on the Meter’s “Hey Pocky Way,” and a full-bore, radio-ready pairing of “Danger Zone” and “Footloose.” All in all, Loggins delivered a well-paced show that varied from soft, heartfelt laments to high-octane dance music, even if sometimes the Symphony just had the best seats in the house.