Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports, one of the defining rock and roll albums of the nineteen-eighties, was released on September 15, 1983, and went on to sell over 10 million copies in the United States alone. Huey Lewis and the News proved that the heart of rock roll is still beating as they took the Woodland Park Zoo stage on July 7th for the Seattle stop of the Sports 30th Anniversary Tour. The beating heart that kicks off one of the best A-sides of the eighties kicked off the concert as well.
“The Heart of Rock and Roll” got the sold-out crowd of a couple thousand up, dancing and singing along right away. One of the oldest gimmicks in the rock and roll handbook is a shout out to the city you’re playing. Sometimes singers stoop so low that they replace a word or another city with yours just to make the crowd feel better. Not Huey. He’d never stoop that low. Instead he wrote his Seattle shout out into the song 30 years ago. The rest of side A didn’t let up with “Heart and Soul,” “Bad is Bad” and jazz-influenced soul of “I Want a New Drug.”
After this Huey addressed the crowd, telling those who hadn’t figured it out yet that they were playing Sports all the way through. They were done with the “radio side” and turning the record over (because that’s what you did in those days) to side B, “the rock side.” I don’t really know how side B can be considered “the rock side” with “If This Is It,” the most radio friendly tune of the bunch, smack in the middle. Most of side A rocked harder. They dedicated the political, Vietnam veteran song “Walking on a Thin Line” to all veterans and they stretched their legs, jamming a little on “Honky Tonk Blues.” Throughout the show Lewis showcased his harp skills he initially learned while hitchhiking across the country forty years ago.
Once Sports was cranked out beginning to end, the band started to touch on the rest of their back catalog. First up however was a brand new song and a really good one at that. “While We’re Young” stands up well alongside past material. The song finds Huey Lewis and the News looking back, all the opportunity and all the experiences they’ve shared in their career; they’re still looking ahead to great times. The quality of this song raises the real possibility of a new album in the not too distant future.
After this they treated fans to “Trouble in Paradise,” the first song they ever wrote together in 1978. They threw in their rocking cover of “Some Kind of Wonderful” for good measure. Then they left the stage.
“Okay, if you insist,” Lewis said taking the stage minutes later for the encore. “This is a newer song, only about 28 years old. Little did we know when we wrote it that we’d have to play it every night of our lives.” And just like that the crowd erupted in a sing along to “Power of Love,” the band’s most famous song thanks to its awesomeness and prominent role in Back to the Future.
They closed out with “Workin’ for a Livin'” and the Nick Lowe penned “Do You Believe in Love?,” accompanied by a long closing jam. They unfortunately didn’t break out “Hip to Be Square,” one of the adopted theme songs of Seattle. It would have been a perfect opportunity for a High Fivin’ White Guys bit at Woodland Park Zoo.
“Thanks Seattle, once again you’ve just heard the News,” Lewis proclaimed. Three decades plus and the News is still exciting, still relevant and still rocks. Huey Lewis too.