Huey Lewis and the News
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - June 4th, 2013)
You may not know this, but back in 1972, singer and harmonica player Huey Lewis and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the Bay Area jazz-funk band Clover, who would eventually become the original backing band for Elvis Costello's first album My Aim Is True - before he attracted The Attractions!
After getting a singles contract from Phonogram Records in 1979, Huey Lewis united his former band mate and three of his former rivals to form Huey Lewis & the American Express. The group would release a single "Exo-Disco" (a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus) that was largely ignored. But in 1980, the band would woo guitarist Chris Hayes and move to Chrysalis Records, changing their name to Huey Lewis and the News.
And so it is that phenomenal musical legend that came to town yet again and wowed the packed house here in Sterling Heights, MI. Playing a venue that had been closed since 2009 the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre is a beautiful outdoor arena to see concerts at, no doubt. But it does get a bit chilly when the sun goes down!
Being that this was the Sports 30th Anniversary Tour, the band came on and broke into the album, both sides, all tracks one after another. So the show kicked off with 'The Heart of Rock & Roll,' 'Heart and Soul,' 'Bad Is Bad,' and followed with the first song to get everyone out of their seats and onto their feet, 'I Want A New Drug.'
"This is our Sports 30th Anniversary tour and we want to thank you folks for coming out and sharing this experience with us," Huey announces to the packed house. "Wow, back then there was no internet, no cell phones, no wrinkles, no glasses," he says adjusting his own! "So as you might have guessed we're doing the Sports album from beginning to end. That was side one, the video side if you will and now we're gonna turn the record over and rock a little harder on side 2. This song was written and performed for the Vietnam Vets, but tonight we're playing it for all the Veterans everywhere." And so up next comes one of my all time HLN favs, 'Walking On A Thin Line.' Together with its moody bass beats and moody lighting, it is still a powerhaus of a track to hear live.
That song bleeds seamlessly into another great lesser-played song, 'Finally Found A Home,' which the audience sit back down to due to just that. The mega hit 'If This Is It' is next and has them back up again, and an older couple at the front begin slow dancing together. The equally great live, and chock full of fun 'You Crack Me Up' is next and comes complete with a nice sax middle from Johnny, before the Hank Williams cover of 'Honky Tonk Blues' brings the LP to a close.
"Are you with me so far?," Huey asks the crowd. "OK, that was the Sports album, all 42 minutes of it so ... what now?" The crowd then take that to mean they should shout out song titles to him, which they do. "OK, OK. Well, this song we're gonna do right now is not 30 years old, but 30 days old. This is a brand new song for you Harpo's people," he laughs, referring to the bands first Michigan gig venue back some near-35 years ago. The new track 'While We're Young' is then performed and I have to say it was delightful! Really nice melody, great harmonies on the chorus, and just the perfect little summer song to put on whilst lazing on a boat.
"OK," he continues, "from the new to the old. We're gonna go back to the very beginning. This was the first song we ever wrote together," he announces, before they launch into 'Trouble In Paradise.' "Alright, let's get this party started," Huey continues. "Are you ready?" he asks of us three times, before they launch into old Motown with a cover of Soul Brothers Six's 'Some Kind Of Wonderful' and back it with the soul of 'It's Alright.'
"Are you still with me?," the overly-chatty Huey asks his raptured audience. "OK, prove it. Everybody clap their hands," he instructs as the band play 'We're Not Here For A Long Time (We're Here For A Good Time).' "Did you have a good time," he asks them. "Good, thank you," he says, as he waves goodbye and heads off stage.
Coming back on for the encore, Huey stands stage front, arms outstretched, lapping in the high octane applause being bellowed at him. A sly smile on his face, a small towel dangling from his left hand, he brings the mic to his mouth: "OK, OK ... if you insist!" After a few seconds of chit-chat with the band he's back: "Thank you all for coming out tonight. We obviously love what we do, but couldn't do it without all of you." He then promotes the new Sports 30th Anniversary Expanded 2-Disc CD with live tracks, before saying that there was a special on tonight and tonight only: "If you buy the CD I will personally come over to your home and mow your lawn!" After the laughter had died down, he then added, "This is a newer song for us, just 27 years old. And who knew all those years ago when we wrote it we'd have to play it every single night thereafter! This is for you, Motor City," he adds as they launch into a fantastic 'The Power of Love.'
Still in a wonderful playful mood, chatting back and forth with the audience like I've never seen him do, he admits we might need to help him out on the next song, a slowed-down version of their massive 1982 hit, 'Do You Believe In Love.' Taking a look at someone’s watch, he then sighs deeply and shrugs: "Thank you very, very much, you've been a wonderful audience, but it's 10:23 ... are you kidding?! Do you know what 10:23 is for an old guy like me? That's nearly an hour after my bedtime!" Not seeming to care, the audience bay for more songs. "OK, so what do you want to hear next," he asks, the crowds screams of various titles swarming into one deafening blast. "So many hits, so little time," he admits, before holding his hand up, turning to grab his harmonica, and then leading us into a brilliant 'Jacob's Ladder.'
"OK, here's one for the ladies," he announces before the band bring us the smooth sounds of 'Doing It All for My Baby.' "We're gonna dedicate this next song to all the working people here tonight, as we always do," he lets us know, before he once again uses his harmonica to intro the musical tour de force of 'Workin' for a Livin'. After he has introduced the band, he brilliantly adds, "My name is Huey Lewis and once again, you just heard the News."
And so after an elbow-bent, fist-pumpin' trademark of a group bow, they are finally gone. And all we're left with is an hour and forty minutes worth of musical memories that will definitely last a lifetime.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk