Really, in terms of appreciating material at live concerts there are two distinct paths - bands you go and see because you like their current stuff, or to hear new things or unashamed nostalgia fests where we all collectively suspend the clear evidence that, well, it ain't like it used to be in the old days, but we all love these songs so much that we're happy to see the musicians responsible trot them out for the umpteenth time.
There is no doubt that last night's Huey Lewis and the News gig in the gorgeous Annette Strauss Square of the Arts District was the latter, and that's not to bash it at all. How could it be anything else? On an evening of stultifying heat, with a start time of 8 p.m., the Square was full of the sort of concert-goers you suspect only get out to one or two live performances a year, when the latest band of their era swings through town. Age of the crowd aside (in the seats at the front, which were going for $70-85 a pop, I was the youngest person by so very far that it was verging on impressive), it's really pretty amazing that a band whose most famous album was released in 1983 and who never really stopped touring can fill a relatively large venue like this thirty years on.
The volume of the crowd and the epic line to get through the bag checks lent this concert the impression of a real event, an impression that the Back To The Future DeLorean by the entrance, belching fumes into the hot, sticky evening like a futuristic chain-smoker, did nothing to dispel. Everyone crowded round to get their photo taken by it, but it's difficult to know how Huey Lewis feels about the now-permanent association between the film and his music. Before dutifully trotting out a "Power of Love" that lacked a lot of the punch of the recorded version, Lewis said "little did we know when we wrote this song that we'd be playing it every night since then," a sentiment which does not smack of joy at the thought of playing it again.
Preceding that classic, which of course came during the encore, the album Sports was played from beginning to end, with Huey Lewis, who is really old now you guys, stopping the music only to remind us that, in the old days, this is when you would have turned the record over. This was part of a speech venerating a time without the internet, CDs, or wrinkles, which the crowd ate up.
One character next to us, cooler full of Shiners in hand, wide-brimmed hat on his head, Huey Lewis t-shirt and combat shorts attire, wasn't just singing along but SHOUTING EVERY WORD BACK AT HUEY LIKE THIS. When the band did an "I say yeah, you say yeah!" call and response bit, this guy did all the yeahs Huey was doing as well as all the yeahs the crowd was meant to do.
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Then he went and stood in the aisle, because he knew "A New Drug" was about to be trotted out and he was bound to lose his shit. Of course, he then proceeded to lose his shit. You'd imagine that he talks about Huey Lewis and the News at parties a fair bit, but I'll leave you to draw your own Patrick Bateman comparisons. Suffice it to say, Patrick Bateman would definitely not have worn that hat.
Indeed, the front seats were essentially a geriatric dance party, with seniors everywhere shaking the hips that surgeons worked so hard to replace. While Huey and co. kept saying it was about to pick up, and we were at a real party now, the music never really managed to reach those heights.
I don't think it was the gig for me, though. Indeed, as 9:30pm rolled around, Huey gave a speech about how a man of his age needed to be in bed now, which was met with not laughter but a cheer. You can't criticize a band for carrying on touring while there's still a market for it, and obviously a band's crowd is bound to age along with the band, but nothing about the performance particularly excited. While there is no doubt that the News are an excellent backing band, whip-crack tight after thirty-five years of playing together (seriously, imagine if you'd been doing the same job with the same people for that long. You would all be the shit at it), the soft-rock missed the mark and failed to engage me. The guys even played a new song, a wry lament about their age called "While We're Young" which, predictably, sounded exactly like Huey Lewis and the News. They've hit on a formula, guys, and they're not changing it. They say once you get past a certain age you stop consuming new music. I'll leave you to decide what to make of that.