Huey Lewis and Yesterday's News
Playing to a sold-out crowd at The Meyerson, Thursday night, Huey and the band tried to revive the energy, charisma and chart-topping performance that made them famous 20 years ago. They missed the mark by a long shot.
Let me start by saying I knew the original band when they were Soundhole, prior to Huey leaving the band he was in (Clover) and forming an alliance with these talented musicians. Huey Lewis and the News had their rehearsal hall in the same complex where I built a recording studio in San Rafael. CA from 1978-1980 and we were well acquainted from 1976 until I relocated to Texas in 1999. In other words, I'm pretty familiar with their material and talent at a minimum, and it pains me to write this review.
A combination of what must be sheer mileage on Huey's throat, combined with the acoustics of The Meyerson, yielded dramatically sub-par results. Too much low end on the vocals caused them to lose intelligibility. It was hard to understand the lyrics coming from the sound system, but the audience was loud and clear in their sing-along segments. Based upon my experience (being a Recording Engineer for over 20 years in California), it is my observation that if you can hear the audience above the band, the balance is off – and I wouldn't even have to raise my voice to let everyone know. The Meyerson may be fantastic for the Symphony, and it is truly a gorgeous example of architecture, but for Rock 'n Roll, it simply doesn't cut it. The staff made mention prior to the performance that the band was having problems getting the right balance during their sound check. Not surprising, since The Meyerson is likely ill-equipped to generate adequate sound level to match electrified instruments.
With most of the band looking like they overslept for the gig, threw on the clothes they were wearing last night - and walked on stage, the highlight of the show is the guitar solos, from “fill-in” guitarist (Tal Morris?) - that's what Wikipedia says, but it was hard to understand Huey's intro. Good tone and riffs, nice stage presence. Definitely an asset to the band.
By the time the band gets through 3 or 4 songs and arrives at “This Is It”, Huey's voice is nearly gone. It's not a matter of not hitting the high notes, a common condition of aging singers, its' simply that he's missing as many notes as he actually pegs, now. Far too many flat notes from a veteran vocalist.
When the guys fire up “Power of Love”, the crowd is on their feet clapping and singing along, oblivious to the cacophony of flat notes coming from Huey's overworked vocal cords.
With a string of hits from movies like “Back to the Future” and “Ghostbusters”, you'd expect great things of new soundtrack material from these talented artists. Pineapple, Huey's latest foray into the film genre, lacks the punch of “Back in Time” - and there's no hook to this song at all. Not the A-list material we've heard from the boys in years gone by.
Written at a Short Stop in Mobile, “Hurry Back Now”, is more catchy, reminiscent of classic Huey. This is a highlight piece from their newer material.
“Hip to be Square” fizzles from sheer lack of energy. It's not that the band isn't trying. The room needs more level for this song (all of their songs, actually) and the band switches to A capella - and back to their doo wop roots for several songs. This is where they truly shine tonight. Huey and the guys excel at this format and The Meyerson is more than capable of handling vocal reinforcement for a handful of singers. If the entire set had been in this style it could have been a great show. Instead, Huey Lewis and the News were largely a disappointment.
Review by Warren Paul Harris, staff writer
Click on the photo for the abbreviated gallery.