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Concert Reviews:
Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis deliver rock and soul at DTE

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- About halfway through his band's set on Thursday night, Aug. 9, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Huey Lewis promised a small but exuberant -- and wet -- crowd that "I think you're gonna get your money's worth tonight."

If only politicians could be as honest as that.

The pairing of Lewis and the News with Joe Cocker and his band was a hit-laden affair teaming two acts adept at not only strong original material but also song interpretation, resulting in a night of hits and heritage from the canons of rock, soul and blues. It was a one-plus-one equals more than two proposition celebrated by the two singers' brief encounter on Ray Charles' "Lonely Avenue" during Cocker's set, with Lewis playing harp.

Usually headliners in their own right, Lewis and the News opened the night with a crisp and tight 80 minutes, the addition of two female singers adding vocal depth to most of the 13 songs -- and particularly a sinewy version of the Staples Singers' "Respect Yourself," Lewis and company also dipped into the covers cupboard for the Soul Brothers Six's "Some Kind of Wonderful," while its own hits such as "The Heart of Rock & Roll," "Heart and Soul," "If This is It" and "Stuck With You" carried the night and "Small World" and Jacob's Ladder" showed a bit of the News' roots in the San Francisco jam band culture.

The set's only speed bump was its rendition of Bobby Day's "Little Bitty Pretty One," whose set-up as an a capella number -- though horns, bass and drums rendered that distinction moot -- took too long for the eventual payoff.

Cocker, meanwhile, displayed a voice that grows huskier and scratchier with age -- which, in his case, is a good thing. Opening with a pumping "Hitchcock Railway" and a slinky take on Traffic's "Feeling Alright," the British-born singer again proved himself a definitive interpreter -- particularly of Beatles material ("Come Together" and, of course, "With a Little Help From My Friends") but also Ray Charles ("Unchain My Heart" and the aforementioned "Lonely Avenue"), the Box Tops ("The Letter") and Randy Newman ("You Can Leave Your Hat On").

The likes of "Delta Lady" and "High Time We Went" were sorely missed, but "When the Night Comes" and the title track from his latest album, "Hard Knocks," were stellar, and while "Up Where We Belong" remains one of the most cloying songs in pop history, Cocker's stripped-down rendering of his 1975 hit "You Are So Beautiful" was a poignant pause that spotlighted a perfect marriage between song and singer.

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