“As I look out on all your faces, there’s a few people here I don’t know! Most of you I do know… most of you are on the guest list, I think!” Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News, peering out across the overflowing crowd within the tent at the Marin County Fair, it was more like a party than a concert, with friends and family making up a good portion of the audience. A hometown show (Huey is from Marin County and the band as a whole is identified with the area), it definitely had a certain magic in the air… a celebration of a band that has written and recorded a large catalog of fantastic music and stuck together now for about 36 years, the crowd was energized from beginning to end. They played songs going back from 1978 to today, and showed how, as a band, they eclipse the decade that they are best known for, and can showcase not only their own music but rock and roll songs written by others, using electric guitars and their famous horn section as well as coming together to the front of the stage for acapella. Definitely one of the most talented bands playing today, and, as always, one of the best tours going.
Who: Huey Lewis and The News
Venue: Marin County Fair
Where: San Rafael, California
Promoter: Marin County Fair
When: July 2, 2014
Seating: General Admission (front row slightly right of center; also photo pass first two songs)
“So many familiar faces out there tonight…” – Huey Lewis
Last night was all about friends and family, and what a better venue to have such a concert than at a local county fair.
The band was scheduled to go on at 7:30 last night, and I arrived around 3:00 or so to find parking even that early on to be a challenge.
The fair part of the event was well attended, but even more than four hours prior to the show, the tent situated on the island just to the side of the fair area was filling up fast.
I was the first into the standing room only barricaded area to find a spot to get my shots for photography, and camped out there for the duration. I met a number of really cool Huey Lewis fans, and even members of the tribute band, Super Huey, filled into the space in front of the stage.
I attended the special 30th Anniversary Tour of Sports last year, which was magnificent, but this seemed to be quite a special show shaping up last night, even before the band took the stage. There was no supporting artist, so it was “an evening with…” type of affair.
Huey Lewis and The News
- Huey Lewis (lead vocals, harmonica)
- Johnny Colla (saxophone, guitar, backing vocals)
- Bill Gibson (drums, percussion, backing vocals)
- Sean Hopper (keyboards, bass vocals)
- James Harrah (lead guitar, backing vocals)
- John Pierce (bass)
- Marvin McFadden (trumpet, percussion, backing vocals)
- Rob Sudduth (teno saxophone, backing vocals)
- Phil (baritone saxophone)
Huey Lewis and The News are a world famous American band, with origins mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, though Huey Lewis (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III) was born in New York City. The band had humble beginnings as artists and I also get the sense that they are still quite grounded in life.
The band is best known for the album Sports, and contributions to the soundtrack for the Back to the Future film franchise.
Huey Lewis’ own life is quite fascinating, even apart from and prior to the formation of band, having spent time hitchhiking across the country with his harmonic, back to his birth city, as well as having stowed away on an airplane to Europe, exemplifying an adventurous youth. He also studied at Cornell University, and later joined a band called Slippery Elm in the late 60s. Upon returning the the Bay Area, he joined another band called clover, and the stage name “Hughie Louis” was born. After publishing two albums with Clover, produced by “Mutt” Lange, “Huey Harp” played harmonica on Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous. Later, he was signed with a new band, Huey Lewis and the American Express, which was later changed to Huey Lewis and The News.
Their first big hit came with their second album, Picture This, with their #7 hit, “Do You Believe in Love”.
The third album, the aforementioned Sports, which was released in 1983, became one of the best-selling records of all time. From that point forward, they found much success with hit after hit. In total, they’ve had 19 top ten singles in their career.
Having grown up in the 80s myself, while I was at the time more narrowly oriented toward New Wave and “modern rock” bands, who could listen to the great music of Huey Lewis and The News and not find it infinitely catchy and infectious. I have always been fascinated by how I have this significant personal association with their music with the 80s, yet their music does not sound like much of anything else released in the 80s. For me, only “Heart and Soul” really sounds like an 80s song – in fact, for me, it sounds kind of like a Men At Work song with an additional Thomas Dolby vibe. Funny enough, until last year, I never realized that “Heart and Soul” was a cover song of a band called Exile from their album of the same name released in 1981. The Huey Lewis and The News version appeared on their Sports in 1983. I think the song has a similar sounding guitar riff, beat, and vocal delivery to some of Men At Work’s popular hits from Business As Usual, which was charting in the U.S. around the same time.
As an interesting anecdote, the band apparently found another popular and successful song in the 80s – Ray Parker Jr’s “Ghostbusters” – sounded enough like their own hit, “I Want A New Drug”, that they filed a lawsuit against him (which was ultimately settled out of court).
In any event, the work from Huey Lewis and The News, to me, on balance, sounds much more like traditional (i.e. timeless) rock and roll, as it did not really succumb to the trends at the time, and also employed a horn section and some more traditional backing vocals and harmonies.
Though in “semi-retirement”, the band is still recording new material and still maintain a heavy touring schedule, and have garnered significant mainstream media coverage last year with their special “Sports” tour.
With the show in Marin last night, they had a more eclectic set list compared with the Sports-oriented one last year.
- The Heart of Rock & Roll
- Some Kind Of Wonderful
- If This Is It
- I Want A New Drug
- He Don’t Know
- Jacob’s Ladder
- Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (Major Lance Cover)
- Little Bitty Pretty One (Bobby Day Acapella Cover)
- While We’re Young
- Trouble in Paradise
- Heart and Soul (Exile cover)
- But It’s Alright (J.J. Jackson cover)
- We’re Not Here for a Long Time (We’re Here for a Good Time)
- The Power Of Love
Do You Believe In Love
Workin’ for a Livin’
All in all, the show ran over an hour and a half, and it was followed by a fireworks show over the water.
With regards to the concert, the band looked and sounded great. As I understand it, many of the guys in the band had friends and family in the audience, and it was Johnny Colla’s birthday as well. Consequently, this was the most enthusiastic crowd I think I’ve seen in some time (for any band) and Huey’s humor (much of it self-deprecating) endeared the crowd to him and inspired them to participate in the songs that called for it.
As he usually does, at one point Huey asked the crowd who had seen the band perform previously, and it appeared that nearly every hand shot up. Then, when asking who was seeing the band for the first time, there was a good portion of the standing room-only pit area that raised their hand, so it was interesting that those who turned out for their first Huey Lewis and The News show were drawn to the very front.
The band played their new song that they debuted on last year’s tour, “While We’re Young”, which is a fantastic tune, and the audience went wild over it.
All in all, it was a great concert and a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to the two upcoming Huey Lewis and The News shows I have coming up soon.
Below are some photos of Huey Lewis and The News performing on stage (apologies to Sean Hopper and Bill Gibson – I ran out of time for photography and was at a bad angle and in a fixed position, but promise I will get shots in the two upcoming shows I’ll be attending…):