Jazzfest has good news with Huey Lewis
Mayor Coderre was invited by Huey Lewis himself to introduce him for his first Montreal concert since 1986. The mayor was a true fan by saying “the heart of rock n roll is in Montreal tonight!” The mayor continued to use Huey’s lyrics in what started off as a nice tribute but by the end had run it’s course into a cheesy monologue.
The News made their way onto the darkened stage as a heartbeat pulsed through the speakers. Aside from Huey there are still three original members of the band, saxophonist / guitarist Johnny Colla, keyboardist, Sean Hopper, and drummer, Bill Gibson. Bassist John Pirece and a session guitarist made up the rest of the core band. There was a four piece horn section for added good measure.
That pulsing heartbeat lead into The Heart of Rock n Roll. As Huey went through a list of cities at the outro of the song it was his enthusiastic cry of “Montreal!” that got one of the biggest cheers of the night. This was followed by another big hit If This Is It although the crowd had sat down for some reason. The extended opening guitar riff of I Want A New Drug got the crowd back on it’s feet. However they quickly sat seeming less interested in the rarely performed Small World and even less for a new upbeat classic sounding News song, Your Love Is Killing Me which I thought was really good.
I had asked Huey earlier in the day following a press conference if he could play Jacob’s Ladder for me. The man is good on his word as that was the next song in the set. I even asked Huey at the aftershow if my request had made a difference in the setlist and he confirmed that he had changed the set right after we spoke due to my request. So thank you very much, Mr. Lewis.
An energetic Back In Time led into a old school doo-wop session as everyone gathered around a line of microphones and a small drum was set up for Gibson. It was here that we got to hear some smooth vocal stylings from the rest of The News including a lead vocal from Johnny Colla. There was a Major Lance cover of Um,Um, Um,Um,Um, Um followed by Bobby Day’s Little Bitty Pretty One. The doo-wop session was followed by Huey giving a lengthy introduction to another new song about getting older called While We’re Young which I didn’t think was so good.
From there on out was when the party actually began with a kicking Heart and Soul that even got audience shouting out the “Whoa-O!” part. A JJ Jackson cover of It’s Alright kept the
crowd going. The set ended with the appropriately titled party song from the band’s Plan B album, We’re Not Here For a Long Time We’re Here For a Good Time. How appropriate since everyone was finally having a good time but Huey and the band had just left the stage.
For the encore Huey joked about playing another new song and then they broke into The Power of Love. After Stuck With You Huey asked permission from Mayor Coderre if the band could play one more song. Huey also said this song would give the band a chance to stretch out a bit musically and boy did they ever on Bad Is Bad. The horn section let it blow literally making it perfect for “jazzfest”.Huey’s harmonica playing was an added fit to this bluesy number. Huey is a good front man walking or prancing around the stage all night, but it’s his harmonica playing where his real talent shines.
The News pulled one more song out with the rocking, Workin For a Livin. The band jumped to the songs conclusion and Huey promised Montreal he’d return sooner than thirty years from now. Let’s hope so, because we can always use some more good news.