Huey Lewis And The News
(Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - August 21st, 2015)
You may not know this (I certainly didn't, once upon a time), 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 stands loud and proud in suburban Michigan, it truly is a beautiful outdoor arena to see concerts at, no doubt. But it does get a bit chilly when the sun goes down!
Anyway, to the "heartbeat" sounds of 'The Heart of Rock & Roll,' the show kicked off in fine, free flowing style. They then backed that up with the mid-tempo pop rock hit 'If This Is It,' before heading swiftly into 'I Want A New Drug.' Huey then begins his first of many chats with the audience, by telling them he had very fond memories of playing Michigan. He then adds, "A lot of people don't want to hear the old songs anymore. So, OK, we'll play the old ones later, but here's a new one," and with that we're into a track from the upcoming new album, 'Her Love Is Killing Me.'
"I always love to go back to a little place we call The Rhythm Ranch," Huey says, as they launch into that particular song, but it's the next song, 'Jacob's Ladder' that, for my money, truly steals the entire show tonight. What with Huey's deep, gnarly harmonica playing, Stef Burns' incredible, invigorated lead guitar playing, and Johnny Colla's stunning rhythm guitar and sax work combined, the extended version is a powerhaus to behold. "OK, screams Huey, let's get the party started and let's go Back In Time." And with that, their infamous soundtrack song is brought forth and delights the crowd.
"Are you with me so far?", Huey inquires. "Very good. That was the right answer," he responds back to the affirmatively baying audience. "How many of you have seen us perform before this evening?", he asks, and when confronted with en mass of positive response of hands held high, responds with "Excellent. So, how many of you saw us at Harpo's back in the day?" Again, a massive, positive response is noted, to which he replies, dead pan, "You are all lying ... because Harpo's only held up to 300!" He continues this talk fest by further asking them, "How many of you are seeing us perform for the very first time", to which yet another massive amount of hands pop up! "Impossible," Huey jokes back. "You must still be lying to me, because we've been around for 37 years" he laughs. Then, before a couple of acapella songs, he introduces the band. 'Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um' and 'Little Bitty Pretty One' follow, with all the guys lined up front of stage, an old fashioned mic with stand positioned in front of them all.
"Before we get back to all the hits, we're gonna make a mistake," he jokes. "We're gonna play another new song. It's not me, I don't want to, but the band wants to play it for you. This one is for those of us who are a little bit older, but we're not done yet," he winks, before the band bring us a quite delightful, 'While We're Young.' During the song, not only does Huey veritably skip around the stage, but he also twirls some circles, and makes contact with a young girl in the front row. It was a very sweet moment and showed Huey still has the soul of a kid, when required, on stage. "Alright, let's dance", he next screams, before the guys bring forth a very powerful 'Heart and Soul,' backing it seamlessly with 'It's Alright.' That, in turn, bleeds perfectly into 'We're Not Here For A Long Time (We're Here For A Good Time).'
With that having been, rather unexpectedly, the end-of-set song, the band wave goodbye, Huey leaving first, but not for long as back they all soon come. "Thank you very much," Huey acknowledges the emphatic baying and clapping crowd. He then introduces the trio of guys that make up the Sports Section Horns, before launching into a stunning 'Power of Love.' That's backed by a mid-tempo version of 'Do You Believe In Love,' which in turn has Huey looking at the watch of a front rower for the time. "Wow, where has the time gone?" he mocks the crowd. "You have been a great audience, but it's 10:40pm and you know what that means to a guy like me," he jokingly retorts.
"OK, so what do you guys want to hear next?" Given that 20,000 fans bay their individual choices all at the same time, Huey then raises his hand. "You are going to have to speak one at a time, sorry!" When that doesn't work, obviously, he adds, "OK, let's just jam a little bit. Cool is the rule, but sometimes Bad Is Bad," he adds, as the guys launch into that very same song, before bringing the entire two hour show to a close with 'Working For A Living.' "Thank you," Huey acknowledges the crowd, and as they all come stage front for their traditional elbow-bent, fist-pumpin' trademark of a group bow, they are just as quickly then finally gone. Bill throwing his drum sticks to the little girl front row that Huey had sung to earlier on, the final act of the night.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk