News flash: the yacht/soft rock renaissance is in full swing. That’s a truly remarkable if unlikely phenomenon given the cacophonous nature of modern-day social media culture.

But there it was, on full display, at the sold-out Solvang Festival Theater on a warm, glorious early spring evening with ’70s titans Pablo Cruise and Jim Messina performing.

This duo could easily be the poster child for this musical genre, kind of like the show bills we used to see plastered all over gritty urban streets.

A country rock musician with a Hall of Fame resume playing in Poco and Loggins & Messina, Messina opened the night with his tight, five-piece backing band. Fresh from a recent show at Castoro Cellars in Paso Robles and feeding off an adoring crowd, the singer/songwriter guitarist dove into a hit parade of “Angry Eyes,” “Danny’s Song” and “Mama Don’t Dance,” all released during his early ’70s heyday with local legend Kenny Loggins.

Still, the highlight of his set was a country rocker called “Mexican Minutes” that Brooks & Dunn recorded in 1993: it got the audience enthusiastically clapping and humming along.

Messina was very engaging, telling stories and jokes about his age, weight, and cognitive abilities. Believe me, all of us AARP members there could relate. For 65 minutes, it served to be a good mix with his prolific 50-plus-year song catalog.

After a lengthy intermission that allowed everyone who seemed to know each other to gather and socialize like eager teenagers, Pablo Cruise poked fun at themselves by showing a retrospective video of the band’s history before hitting the outdoor stage at 9 p.m.

Adult high school was in full session.

It was a shaky start with back-up singer Robbie Wyckoff motioning for his monitors to go up then down and guitarist David Jenkins fumbling with his axe during the first two songs. But the five-piece group, featuring original members and primary songwriters Jenkins and Cory Lerios, quickly found its groove.

. . . it became clear how much these guys influenced late ’70s pop rock bands like Toto, Alan Parsons Project and Christopher Cross.”

Founded in 1973, Pablo Cruise got famous in 1978 with the release of their platinum selling Worlds Away album coming on the heels of their equally popular A Place in the Sun record.

Watching Jenkins on guitar and Lerios on keyboards shred thru several classic songs like “A Place in the Sun,” “Cool Love” and “Don’t Want to Live Without It,” it became clear how much these guys influenced late ’70s pop rock bands like Toto, Alan Parsons Project and Christopher Cross.

Like Messina earlier, Lerios engaged the crowd of about 700 with humorous anecdotes, initially asking female fans to refrain from throwing any clothing on stage. Apparently, some guy did just that at a recent concert with his large pants nearly covering the diminutive keyboardist. Funny? Yes. True? Maybe not.

For my taste, their 12-song, 95-minute set was too short on songs and extra-long on bass/drum solos and stories, but still entertaining. While bassist Larry Antonino and drummer Sergio Gonzalez kept the band on solid rhythmic ground, an interesting but unexpected aspect were their long instrumental jams featuring amazing guitar work by Jenkins, turning Pablo Cruise into a jam band for much of the show.

Grateful Dead yacht rock: I think I just invented a new genre.

It was my first time attending the intimate but comfortable Solvang venue, secretly tucked into this charming city’s downtown area and boasting picnic grounds adjacent to the actual theater.

Whether it’s live music, a play or Broadway musical, put it on your Central Coast bucket list.

:: Colin Jones