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Concert Reviews:
The heart of rock & roll beats strong for Huey Lewis & the News at Freedom Hill
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- "Did you miss us?" Huey Lewis asked the crowd Friday night, Aug. 21, at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre -- as he does most every time he and his band, the News, plays.

But this time he meant it a little more.

Lewis and company skipped its usually annual stop in the Detroit metro area last summer, playing Flint during the fall instead. So there was a sense among the more than 5,600 fans there on Friday that the group had indeed been missed. And the News made up for its absence with a typically smooth and energetic 17-song, nearly 100-minute show that touched on its entire 35-year recording career and threw a few surprises into the mix for good measure.

Following an opening set by former Eagles guitarist Don Felder -- who filled his time with a crowd-pleasing selection of songs by his former band, from the opening "Already Gone" to the finale of "Hotel California" -- Lewis and the News showed their collective her of rock 'n' roll was still beating strong with its mix of rock, R&B, blues and even some nods to the jam band heritage of its San Francisco origin. As if taking up the gauntlet Felder threw down with his collection of hits, the News opened with a blast of three of its own Top 10s -- "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "If This Is It" and "I Want a New Drug," the latter featuring one of the night's many extended guitar solos by Stef Burns.

There were plenty of other proven favorites to follow, but also some welcome curve-balls, such as "The Rhythm Ranch" from 2001's "Plan B" album and a pair of new songs -- the bluesy "Her Love is Killing Me" and the soulful "While We're Young" -- that Lewis promised would be part of a new release next year. "Jacob's Ladder" was expanded into an airy, spacious jam, while "Do You Believe in Love" took on a relaxed, Rococo air and "Bad Is Bad" was transformed to a full-on blues that gave plenty of room for the News and its three-piece horn section to stretch out.

The group quietly acknowledged the 30th anniversary of "Back to the Future" by playing both of its contributions to its soundtrack -- the chart-topping "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time" -- while the semi-acapella segment featured covers of Major Lance's "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" and Bobby Day's "Little Bitty Pretty One." "Workin' For a Livin' " remains the News' dependable set closer and mission statement, and when Lewis noted that "this isn't the first time we've played here, and it won't be the last," the Freedom Hill faithful were certainly happy to hear that -- and hoping for next summer as well.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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