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Chicago, Huey Lewis Offer a 'Healthy Helping' of Hits

Of the Oakland Press

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Huey Lewis’ recent run in “Chicago” on Broadway proved to be something of an unintended harbinger.

He and his band,

Huey Lewis & the News,

are on the road this summer with


a package that makes plenty of sense to both parties.

“We went out with Earth, Wind & Fire two years in a row, and we wanted to give that a rest and Huey’s name came up,” explains Chicago trombonist James Pankow. “It seemed interesting. The News is a great band. They’ve been around. They have their own horn section, which is a great fit. Huey is a fun guy. We just figured it would work, too.”

Lewis, 56, acknowledges that he didn’t think the News “would be as compatible with (Chicago) as Earth, Wind & Fire,” but was quick to say yes nevertheless.

“It’s a good thing for us both,” he explains. “It’s a healthy helping of old hits. People are absolutely going to recognize a few of the songs we sing. And it’s an opportunity to play some markets we can’t get in — we can, but not for the kind of money we need anymore. “I don’t know if we make immediate sense as a touring partner for (Chicago), but I still think it’s going to be fabulous.”

The two groups are collaborating during the shows, although not to the same choreographed extent as Chicago did with Earth, Wind & Fire. Pankow says that fusing horn sections is a natural fit, while Lewis and some of his band members know Chicago’s Bill Champlin from their mutual home base in San Francisco and that Champlin is something of a “hero” to the News crew.

Both groups have new albums to push, too. Chicago is supporting “Chicago XXX,” which was produced by Jay DeMarcus of the country band Rascal Flatts — a pairing that Pankow, 59, says had fans worried that “oh, no, Chicago’s going country!”

“On the contrary,” he notes, “Jay’s a lot more than people see on the surface. We realized after meeting him he goes a heck of a lot deeper than just country.

“And I’m very impressed with the job he did. He walked a tightrope between retaining the Chicago trademark and putting a fresh face on this stuff for the 21st Century. It’s an album we’re very proud of.”

Lewis and company, meanwhile, are hawking a new “Greatest Hits” album and “Greatest Videos” DVD, reviewing the News’ 26 years of recording. The group also is working on new material, while Lewis has optioned the film rights for the Larry Colton book “Counting Coup,” the true story of a girls high school basketball team on the Little Big Horn reservation in Montana.

He’ll be returning to Broadway in November, too, to reprise his role as Billy Flynn to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Chicago’s” revival.

“I really loved doing it, man,” he says. “The talent-to-humility ratio is huge, which is refreshing coming from rock ’n’ roll. And it’s just a great part, a really creative thing for me to do right now.”

Chicago and Huey Lewis & the News perform at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (July 2nd) at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road north of I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $60.25 pavilion, $20.75 lawn. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit

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