The first time I saw Huey Lewis and the News was at one of those all-day rock festivals in the early eighties with about 80,000 of my closest friends. Their set was relatively short and included all of their hits. It was an energetic, electric, fun time. A few years later, I saw them headlining an arena tour, pimping their newest album; this time they failed to impress. When they visited Orlando this weekend for a free concert on the streets of the City, I was curious to see what show we were going to get all these years later.
The band launched into their 90 minute set, entering to a pounding heartbeat and one of their biggest hits, “The Heart of Rock and Roll.” The band played all of their hits and truly seemed focused on reminiscing their successful career. Huey Lewis, at the age of 61, is still a strong front man. He interacted with the crowd all night, still bounced around the stage (albeit a little bit more slowly), retaining a decent semblance of his trademark gravelly voice, truly seeming to enjoy himself.
All of the expected tunes were there, and they also included a few twists. At one point all of the band members came front and center and sang a few a cappella doo wop songs. They all seemed to have a blast, yet I couldn’t help thinking of an aged local lounge act legends Mark and Lorna, as they belted out “Sixty Minute Man.” In any event, the large crowd was clearly happy.
The band also added a few other covers, including an excellent version of JJ Jackson’s classic Motown hit “But It’s Alright.” They closed the set with “Back In Time” and then returned for a two song encore that had the crowd singing and dancing in the streets, as they closed with a nicely slowed down version of “Do You Believe In Love?” and their signature “Working For A Living.” They embody the spirit of that song and absolutely worked hard to please the satisfied crowd.
Long-time News members Johnny Colla on Sax, Bill Gibson on drums, Sean Hooper on Keyboards, John Pierce on bass and Stef Burns on guitar are still touring with the band. It’s a welcome anomaly these days as most 80’s bands tour with one key member and a bunch of recent graduates from The School of Rock.
All told, not spectacular, but a fun night out with a band aiming to please. Kudos to the group at 98.9 WMMO for putting on an excellent free downtown concert!