Huey Lewis & The News
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - June 12th, 2011)
As we all know by now, Huey Lewis and the News are an American rock band that had a massive run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s. Eventually scoring a total of 19 Top 10 singles across the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary and Mainstream Rock charts, their greatest success was in the 1980s with the #1 album, Sports.
Their latest album, Soulsville (released in 2010) is, amazingly, the band's first in nearly a decade! A cover album of hits from the Stax Records era, basically the Memphis equivalent of Detroit's Motown, this allowed Huey to explore his favorite singer - the late, great American vocalist Johnnie Taylor.
And so, as the sun began to set behind the grassy hill here in this (sadly) third-filled-only beautiful outdoor arena, the feel of Soulsville U.S.A. that we knew was going to influence the Huey Lewis & The News set structure was immediately put on hold! For the first musical bullet out the barrel was the News-classic, 'The Heart of Rock & Roll'!
But that soon changed as for the next 8 songs played only that one song was a News-known tune. Next came 'Free,' The Staple Singers' 'Respect Yourself,' and Isaac Hayes' 'Soulsville.' "Hello, Motor City," Huey bellows out to the crowd, his voice notably not as gruff, not as throaty, not as loud as it has been before.
From then on we don't hear much else spoken by Huey save for more tracks from Soulsville - such as 'I Want To (Do Everything For You),' 'Never Found A Girl,' and the first song to really get people up on their feet, Rufus Thomas' toe-tappin' 'Little Sally Walker.'
Huey then chats to a man in the crowd about Michigan State, which gets well-rounded boo's from the 'Go Blue!' section of the audience, before he takes his usual poll: "Raise your hands those that have seen us play live before? OK, now raise your hands if you're seeing us for the very first time?" Obviously, there was a large section of raised hands on the latter, because Huey then jokingly adds: "I'm a little surprised by that as we've only performed here at Pine Knob 30 or 40 times in the past 32 years!"
He then intro's the band and they go acapella for both '60 Minute Man' and 'Uh Huh,' before we're (finally) back to a News-classic, 'The Heart Of Rock & Roll.' Then comes 'I Want a New Drug' (which bleeds seamlessly into 'Small World') which also has the crowd back up on their feet, but the pace of the band, and the overall singing power of Huey are a) slow, and b) still noticeably low.
We're then transported back to the Memphis neighborhood with the Wilson Pickett classic, 'Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You,' before 'Never Like This Before' brings the show to a close. Huey bows to the crowd, waves goodbye, fist pumps and leaves the stage - but only for a brief moment, of course!
Five minutes later and the band are back for a long encore of songs. "Here's a song we wrote 25 years ago," Huey says, as the opening chords to 'Power of Love' back him. " Who knew we'd still have to play it every night!" It's after that the show dissolves a little. As if the game plan had run out, Huey asks the audience what songs they would like to hear. After a few minutes of shouted out titles, we then get 'Hip To Be Square,' before he asks again and then gives us their hit, 'Do You Believe in Love?'
By now Huey's voice is gone, his known-screams and yelps down to a pulled back head movement on the mic when any song required such a vocal moment. He is noticeably tired, but is a trooper, as always and so just when you think that's it he launches into a blistering 'Walking on a Thin Line' (which he dedicates to those "on the front line").
Bringing the show to a close, the usual show-ender of 'Workin' For A Living' is dedicated to "all the workin' folks" and once done, a massive group stage bow and universal fist pump signals the end of yet another Huey Lewis & The News concert - albeit more a night when the musical community of Memphis overly embraced the soul of their News-performance.
Review and Photos by: Russell A. Trunk