Last Night: Huey Lewis & The News At Arena Theatre

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Huey Lewis & the News Arena Theatre September 12, 2010

See photos from Huey Lewis' concert at the Arena Theatre.

Sometimes when Aftermath listens to Huey Lewis and the News we get sad, because they sounded like they were having a lot of fun back in the '80s. It's like hearing about a really cool party that you didn't get to go to because you were too busy soiling yourself and crying, which we more than likely were when Sports came out.

What's more, Lewis and the News were having fun helping other people have fun, with a ferocity or even a militancy. We can't really fathom people not clapping and dancing and shaking their asses at any one of their shows, or even driving to the gas station to buy Fanta back in their heyday. Nobody gets happy like that these days without trying to preach to you.

Does anybody feel sad when they hear "The Power of Love" or watch Back to the Future, for that matter? No, they do not. Huey Lewis and his band are a nine-person smile parade. That scares someone like Aftermath, who is used to bands trying to depress us and/or melt our face off. Sometimes a smile can be the scariest thing in the world.

Sunday night at Arena Theatre, Huey Lewis and The News went about making their devotees smile again with a set heavy on new material from upcoming Soulsville LP (due in November), plus a handful of hits at the end. Truthfully, the hits didn't come until almost an hour in and after one shameful solo decimation of a tub of popcorn on our part, but even that gave us a good chance to spy the band in their own natural element, away from the singles game.

Soulsville is going to be a celebration of the soul and R&B that informed the News' early sound. Cuts from the album, like "Don't Fight It" and "Never Found a Girl," aren't the speedy foot-stompers of the band's mid-period, but they were sturdy sketches that at least got people moving. They certainly didn't tank, and in fact getting an older crowd expecting to hear the News' prime cuts moving in time to the new songs was a feat in itself.

It was fun to hear older guys - latter-day superfans, we're guessing - scream "Huey" at the top of their aging lungs in between songs until they became shrill. This is what we missed in the '80s, and it sucks. One Carlton Banks-looking fellow in sensible slacks up front made sure to pantomime the whole show, while a cavalcade of cougars of varying hair color would run to the stage to take Facebook pics with Lewis or flash a camera in his face. No shame, but we like it that way.

"I Want A New Drug" came almost as a mercy piece for the people who couldn't be bothered with the group's new work, and melded into "Small World" with the flick of a wrist. The a cappella portion of the show was an exercise in musical intricacy, but it sadly had some people fleeing for their vodka tonics at the bar. What's boring about five guys using only their voices to create melodies? Just a rough weekend, maybe.

We forgot how much harmonica Lewis also played, and in keeping with this weekend's veritable harp buffet at Minute Maid Park, it seemed only fitting that the freaky weekend ended with Lewis wailing on one. In the end, it wasn't the barn-burning raunchy sax solo beatdown we wanted (no "Back In Time"... sad face) but it was good to see an artist not resting on his back catalog out of laziness.

We still wanted to hear "Back In Time," though.

Personal Bias: We have been hooked on Lewis since we heard "I Want a New Drug" as a small child watching a PSA video about teen drinking. Now we take the song literally.

The Crowd: Nostalgia-trippers, Bret Easton Ellis fans, snickering indie kids, aging New Wavers and someone's dad screaming for "If This Is It."

Overheard In the Crowd: "I bet he has to wear really tight underwear."

Random Notebook Dump: Are Huey Lewis And The News the Burger King to Bruce Springsteen's McDonald's?

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