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Concert Reviews:
Huey Lewis & the News are good "Sports" at Freedom Hill opener

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- The opening night crowd at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre didn't have to wait long to hear the big hits from Huey Lewis & the News on Tuesday, June 4.

In celebrating the 30th anniversary of its multi-platinum breakthrough album "Sports," the veteran group and longtime favorite of the Detroit metro area is on the road playing the set in its entirety. That meant Tuesday's show was frontloaded with hits -- three of the first four songs ("The Heart of Rock & Roll," "Heart and Soul, "I Want a New Drug") were all Top 10 singles -- which certainly got the Freedom Hill crowd on its feet early but presented a unique challenge for the rest of the night. How, after all, does a band maintain momentum over an hour and 45 minutes after dishing out that much of the good stuff so early?

On Tuesday, the solution for Lewis and company was to take a kind of kitchen-sink approach to the rest of the night, digging into the rest of the catalog for covers, favorites and even a brand new song -- as well as taking some audience requests that were genuinely spur of the moment during the encore.

And there was certainly a fresh tenor to the 19-song show as the nine-piece News revisited not only "Sports' " non-hits -- including a neat segue from "Walking on a Thin Line" into "Finally Found a Home," the New Wavey "You Crack Me Up" and the twangy Hank Williams cover "Honky Tonk Bones" -- but also tucked into deeper fare such as "Trouble in Paradise," with Lewis' reference to playing the Detroit club Harpo's during the early 80s. Renditions of the Soul Brothers Six's "Some Kind of Wonderful" and J.J. Jackson's "But It's Alright," meanwhile, also conveyed some of the rough-and-tumble bar band bonhomme and the gropu still maintains even in its more polished "middle age."

Teasing the crowd about how long the show was running -- "I haven't been up past 10:30 in a long time," Lewis cracked after looking at a fan's watch -- he extended the night by calling out audibles for an expansive arrangement of "Jacob's Ladder" and "Doing It All For My Baby," both from the "Sports" follow-up "Fore!," before finishing with the traditional "Workin' For a Livin.' "

Lewis also dedicated the smooth, R&B-flavored new tune "While We're Young" to those who saw the News at Harpo's, its wistful lyric an ode to aging with both grace and spirit -- exactly what the band itself is doing three decades after its greatest commercial triumph.

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