At a time when the “yacht rock” sound remains beloved, two titans of the genre teamed up last night (June 13) in New York for a concept so perfect, it’s hard to believe it hadn’t been done before. Christopher Cross and Kenny Loggins each played sets on the actual yacht The Horizon’s Edge as part of SiriusXM’s exclusive “Yacht Rock the Boat” event, soundtracking a three-hour sunset cruise around the west side of Manhattan for a few hundred subscribers and VIP guests. And yes: captain’s hats were provided upon entry.
Cross, 71, remains a figurehead of yacht rock thanks to his 1980 classic “Sailing,” but he is still working his way back from COVID-19-related illnesses that left him unable to walk or play guitar for an extended period of time. Nodding to the theme of the evening with his Steely Dan Aja t-shirt, Cross often yielded vocals to a trio of backing singers last night, but shredded several guitar solos as the crack rhythm section of Keith Carlock (Steely Dan) and Will Lee (the “Late Night With David Letterman” band) kept things grooving behind him.
Other highlights of his performance included the funky “Baby It’s All You,” Cross’ immortal theme from the movie Arthur (truly a meta experience to hear while boating under the moon in New York City…), “Ride Like the Wind” (which sadly did not feature Michael McDonald reprising his guest vocal from the original or Rick Moranis doing his best McDonald impression) and a stripped-down encore of “Think of Laura.”
Cross is in the midst of a pretty cool Beatles-themed tour in tandem with Todd Rundgren, former Moody Blues/Wings member Denny Laine, ex-Chicago vocalist Jason Scheff and what’s left of the the ’70s band Badfinger called “It Was 50 Years Ago Today,” at which the musicians sprinkle songs from Revolver and Rubber Soul into sets featuring their own material.
Loggins, 74, is back in the spotlight now thanks to Top Gun: Maverick, which once again features his hit “Danger Zone” from the original 1986 film. He also has an excellent new autobiography, Still Alright, out today, in which he shares tales of working on Footloose and Caddyshack, recording with Michael Jackson and Stevie Nicks and suing Garth Brooks for plagiarism. On the yacht, the classics flowed like fine white wine, from early Loggins & Messina material like “Danny’s Song” and “House on Pooh Corner” to “This Is It,” “I’m Alright” and, naturally, both “Footloose” and “Danger Zone.”
One of the more intriguing moments came when Loggins played the original version of “What a Fool Believes” that he co-wrote with McDonald, which was actually released prior to the one The Doobie Brothers turned into a hit in 1979. Although it sounded quite different without McDonald’s vocal contributions, the track was a reminder of how the tentacles of yacht rock reach far into the annals of pop music, even to this day.
Loggins is supporting Still Alright with a handful of intimate shows in the next couple of weeks, and will also reunite with Jim Messina for two Loggins & Messina performances July 15-16 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. As for the Yacht Rock the Boat performances, they will air (where else?) on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on Yacht Rock Radio, which is available through Sept. 5 on SiriusXM radios (ch. 14) and on the SXM app. The station also lives year-round on SiriusXM channel 311.