BEAVER CREEK — If you weren’t at the Vilar Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night, then you missed a great party. For that was exactly the atmosphere that Huey Lewis created when he and the News took the stage for almost two hours. His recognizable raspy voice — a bit more raspy these days after a 36-year career that includes a string of hits and over 30 million albums sold — still wailing the songs that brought him to the heights of rock in the ‘80s.
Grabbing Our Attention
Lewis, 63, walked out, harmonica in hand, and grabbed the crowd’s immediate attention with the first few notes of “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” followed by “My Other Woman.” Then electric guitarist Stef Burns brought the house down with his walloping solo in “If This is It.”
It wasn’t until after “I Want a New Drug,” that Lewis finally took a breath to greet the admiring crowd.
“We used to be a hot dog band,” cracked Lewis as he addressed the capacity audience of just over 500 in the intimate theater. “Now we’re hangin’ with the wine and cheese crowd. We even have a polite mosh pit.”
The band was like a well-oiled machine. So polished. So tight. Burns, Johnny Colla (guitar and saxophone), Bill Gibson (drums), Sean Hopper (keyboards) and John Pierce (bass) were joined by what Lewis calls “The Sports Section” that included Johnnie Bamont (saxophone) Rob Sadduth (saxophone) and No. 1 sub, Chris Burns. Throughout the evening, Lewis bantered with the audience in a familiar, easy manner that kept everyone in his grasp. He was warm, he teased, he was natural.
“We don’t want to peak too early,” shouted Lewis, as the band went into a bit of blues with “He Don’t Know,” and then “Jacob’s Ladder.”
Soon six standing mikes were brought out and the band was ready to sing.
“Those who have seen us before know what’s coming next — we’re doing to do some songs a cappella,” Lewis explained, as they broke into “Uh Huh,” which included a dance bit, and “Little Bitty Pretty One,” with audience participation.
“Now we’re doing something dangerous,” teased Lewis as he introduced a new song, “While We’re Young.” “And do us a favor – after the song is over, pretend that you love it. It will be a win-win. We like playing new songs, and it will make us play better.”
Who knows whether or not the crowd liked it, but there was a standing O when the song was over.
Then the band went on to play an oldie but goodie that was written in 1978, “Trouble in Paradise, ” before Lewis shouted, “OK, let’s dance.” And with that the entire audience got up to shake their booties to “Heart and Soul,” (Exile cover), “But It’s Alright.” (J.J. Jackson cover) and “We’re Not Here for a Long Time (We’re Here for a Good Time).”
‘So Many hits, So Little Time’
When the audience began to shout out requests, Lewis, very humbly replied, “So many hits, so little time.” Then he joked, “We’d love to play more, but it’s 9:40. Do you know what 9:40 means to a man my age?”
Yet, he wasn’t too old to play an amazing four-song encore, with “Power of Love,” “Bad is Bad,” where each of the incredible musicians was able to showcase, “Plan B,” and finally “Workin’ for a Livin’,” that had the crowd shouting for more as they danced toward the exits.