Jazz Festival Reviews – Huey Lewis and The News

You got to be ‘Hip to be Square …’


Face it, the musical feeling about Huey Lewis and The News circulating the planet some thirty years following the release of their album ‘Sports’ – is not very … musical.

It is easy to write off an 80’s band. Even easier to write off a ‘video’ 80’s band. Easier still to write off Huey Lewis and his group as just a one (six?) hit wonder. Selective memory files the music away. High school kinda stuff  placed on the shelf in a high school locker.  ‘Purists’ don’t bother filing at all. ‘ In the trash, move on and forget about Huey Lewis.’

No ‘news’ here.


Fast forward to 2015.

The more things change, the more opinions change. Huey Lewis and his mates displayed the reason why so many songs from his ‘Sports’ album became staples worldwide and why that album sold 20 million copies. The News and Lewis – a great Blues band. Period. Last evening, Place des Arts and Montreal found out what Mayor Denis Coderre already knew. Or did they?

(c) Benoit Rousseau_FIJM_CP Huey Lewis-3852

Commencing the night ( in a heartbeat) with ‘Heart of Rock n Roll’, Huey Lewis transported everyone back to the days of tossing Rubik’s Cubes across the room in frustration. Judging by the crowd reaction – everyone at Salle Wilfred Pelletier definitively replaced more than one of the cubes as they attempted to be ‘hip’ by being ‘square.’ At the 2015 Montreal International Jazz Festival, attending a Huey Lewis show was ‘hip’ in a ‘square’ kind of way.


 ‘The Sports Section’ with Marvin McFadden (trumpet), Rob Sudduth ( Saxophone) and Johnnie Bamont ( Saxophone) are what separates the 80’s ‘News’ from the 80’s ‘bad news’. As Lewis pointed out – their music seems more fit for today than when it was released in the decade of ‘Baby on Board’ signs. The horn section could rival any Motown group combining Soul, R and B, Rock and Blues.

Once again – ‘Hip to be Square’ …

Add Stef Burns to the mix with his piercing guitar solos, just enough grit to what otherwise could be a backing band for Aretha Franklin. Enough bite to compliment the brassy hooks which make up the foundation of Huey Lewis and the News. But wait. There’s more …

Just when songs such as ‘ The Power of Love’, ‘If This is It’, “I Want a New Drug’ and  ‘Heart and Soul’ fooled everyone into placing the show on a shelf in the locker, Lewis placed his harmonica to his mouth and – as quick as a Cabbage Patch Doll leaves the store, Huey Lewis and the News are a raunchy Blues band. Margaret Thatcher in her first day of office never would have thunk it.


‘Bad is Bad’ from the album Sports – just the tip of the Blues iceberg.

It’s easy to forget the band was a Blues bar band before their rise to fame. In Lewis’ words; ‘ We went from the beer and peanut crowd to the wine and cheese crowd …’ The News’ Blues reputation cemented on Wednesday night with a dirty version of  ‘Your Love is Killing Me’.

‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’ ( Major Lance cover) and ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’ (Bobby Day cover) displayed the other reason which set the band apart from most 80’s bands. A pair of Capella ditties deliciously displayed Do -Wop style with all members of the band front and center. Huey Lewis and his News – complete with something for everything.


So what’s new?

Huey and the boys delivered two new songs with a Lewis – invoked promise from the audience to applaud whether they like it or not. Surprisingly, one of the ‘new’ songs; “While We’re Young’ – quite possibly the next hit for the band when the new record comes out next year. The other ‘virgin’ offered for sacrifice? Along with the older tune ‘Small World’ ( from the album of the same name) – not even worth mentioning. A pair of old socks in a fresh drawer. Two ‘stinkers …’

Sean Hopper (keys), Bill Gibson ( Drums) and Johnny Colla ( rhythm guitar) contradicted the ‘stench’ with clean, crisp and acute precision. Professionals playing in a professional band. Huey Lewis and the News ain’t The Stones or The Beatles. They are far removed from The Band. What they are is a well rounded ( with moments of brilliance) band who posses a lead singer with good looks and charisma. A front man who has powerful chops even at the age of sixty-four. A singer who plays a mean harp and allows his music to escape the shelf locker and make people understand it’s …

Hip to Be Square.

Tune in at 6:15pm Thursdays to k103.7fm as I recap the week’s events !


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Huey Lewis, John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Whitehorse, Johnnie Johnston, The Kentucky Headhunters and Harry Manx

A lot coming …

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Please listen below to what’s coming and who I will be speaking to on …

Rick Keene Music Scene



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