Friday, August 16, 2013

Huey Lewis & the News Celebrate "Sports" at Coney Island

"New York, New York, is everything they say / And no place that I'd rather be."  That's the first line of "The Heart of Rock & Roll," which opens Huey Lewis & the News' 1983 album, Sports.  It was also the perfect choice to open the band's concert at Coney Island last night.  Touring in honor of the 30th anniversary of that #1 LP, Huey & the News began by blazing their way through the first four tracks of soul-infused pop, culminating in "I Want a New Drug."  "Thirty years is a long time. Think about it. Thirty years ago. No Internet. No cellphones. No CDs. No real personal computers. No back pain. Those were the days," Huey reminisced.  "Now we're gonna turn the record over. 'Cause that's what we did, kids," he laughed.  "And we're gonna rock a little harder on side B," he warned, starting up a one-two punch of "Walking on a Thin Line" and "Finally Found a Home."  The sound mix was the first tolerable one I've heard in the Seaside Summer Series, especially impressive considering there were nine musicians onstage.  Huey was quite the humble frontman, turning his back to the crowd while his bandmates soloed, so the focus wouldn't be on him.  And he sounded exactly the same as he did thirty years ago, save for the title lyric of "If This is It," which he swallowed a little.  After the rollicking "Honky Tonk Blues," Lewis announced, "So that was it. Sports. Forty-two minutes of American music. Now what?"

They chose a new number, "While We're Young."  Props to Lewis for inserting a fresh one into the hit parade, and a good one at that.  With the song moving along at an almost rocksteady riddim, Huey sang the smooth chorus, peppering in some impassioned yelps and howls.  Then they went back in time to their debut record, pulling out "Trouble in Paradise."  Huey modified the song's lyric "Down at the brothers in the parking lot" to "Down in Coney Island in a parking lot," eliciting cheers from the crowd.  While Lewis has been known to adapt this line to the city he's in, the fact that we were in an actual parking lot made it just that much sweeter.  During "(She's) Some Kind of Wonderful," I noticed that the real party seemed to be happening out on the boardwalk, where a horde of dancing fans watched through the chain-link fence.  Looking back towards the stage, I noticed everyone inside the fence was also grooving out of their seats.  That is, everyone except for those who brought their own.  I guess if you're gonna lug your chair on the subway and down the street, you're damn well gonna sit in it.  Halfway through the upbeat "But It's Alright," a girl walked onstage, carrying a xylophone.  As she held it out for him, Huey plinked out a sprightly solo to roars from the audience.  The band capitalized on the energy and segued directly into "We're Not Here for a Long Time (We're Here for a Good Time)" to finish the set.

Hopefully we wouldn't have another Smokey Robinson situation on our clapping hands.  Two minutes later, they returned.  "Oh, alright. If you insist," teased Huey.  "We've had a lot of requests. So many hits, so little time."  Prefacing it, "Who knew that when we wrote this song that we'd have to play it every night of our lives?" they launched into "The Power of Love."  This was my favorite song when I was six, so needless to say, it was great.  "Do You Believe in Love" didn't necessarily strike me as an encore-worthy follow-up, but the News nailed the backup vocals, so I didn't complain.  After that, Bill Gibson started a rumbling drum solo, and Huey stepped in with a train engine blast on his harmonica to kick off the blue-collar anthem "Workin' for a Livin'."  The crowd clapped along energetically, and after introducing the band members, Huey shouted, "Once again, you just heard the Neeewwws!" before the song's final notes.

So little time, indeed.  When you have to play an album in its entirely, I suppose you have to make sacrifices.  But I think maybe Patrick Bateman said it best:  "Do you like Huey Lewis & the News? Their early work was a little too 'new-wave' for my taste, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, both commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. In '86, Huey released this, Fore!, their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is 'Hip to Be Square,' a song so catchy most people probably don't listen to the lyrics, but they should! Because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself!"  Even still, there was no place that I'd rather be.


The Heart of Rock & Roll / Heart & Soul / Bad is Bad / I Want a New Drug / Walking on a Thin Line > Finally Found a Home / If This is It / You Crack Me Up / Honky Tonk Blues / While We're Young / Trouble in Paradise / (She's) Some Kind of Wonderful / But It's Alright > 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'

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