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Concert Reviews:
Huey Lewis' heart of rock 'n' roll beats -- in Flint. for a change
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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FLINT -- The heart of rock 'n' roll was beating in a new place on Saturday night, Oct. 18 -- and was maybe a little stronger for it.

Huey Lewis & the News did not play their usual summer show in the Detroit metro area this year, opting instead to open the 2014-15 season at The Whiting in Flint. It's been a long time -- since a Fox Theatre show in 1994 -- that the San Francisco troupe has played indoors in southeastern Michigan, and it's never done a public show in Flint. But the change of scenery and the intimacy of the five-tiered, 2,000-seat performing arts center certainly worked to the advantage of the group's spirited 17-song, 95-minute show.

Lewis and company curried the already exuberant Sweetest Day crowd's favor early, staring with three No. 6 (no omen there) hits -- "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "If This is It" and "I Want a New Drug" -- before Lewis declared, "Apparently things aren't so bad in Flint, Mich." to, not surprisingly, a heart and grateful ovation. The rest of the night balanced the nine-piece ensemble's tightly executed blend of crafted, hooky rock and revue-style R&B with a bar band looseness, romping through arrangements that left room for extended instrumental vamps -- particularly by lead guitarist Stef Burns on "Jacob's Ladder" and the soulful "He Don't Know."

Lewis and company also morphed their usual a capella section into a full-band affair, with subtly stripped down version of Major Lance's "Um, Um, Um..." and Bobby Day's "Little Bitty Pretty One," while "Hip to Be Square," which Lewis dedicated "to all the ex-hippies," started to get the subscription-based crowd out of its seats. The group also played a pair of brand new songs -- the R&B-flavored "Here Love is Killing Me" and the poppier "While We're Young" -- slated for an EP due out in 2015, while its rendition of Soul Brothers Six's "Some Kind of Wonderful" was particularly appropriate on Saturday since it was popularized nearly four decades ago by Flint's own Grand Funk Railroad."

"The Power of Love," "Doing It All For My Baby" and "Workin' For a Livin' " -- the latter also more resonant in Flint, perhaps, than other locales -- gave the show a powerhouse finish, and when Lewis promised that "this is our first time ever in Flint, but it won't be the last," it was clear at The Whiting that the group will be welcome to come back any time.



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