On the records: Huey Lewis and the (Westport) News
Published 5:17 pm, Monday, July 5, 2010
With nearly 40 years of performing under his belt, Huey Lewis knows what sort of work it will take to kick off his nationwide summer tour Thursday at the Levitt Pavilion.
"We had a couple rehearsals for this tour, so we're actually more prepared than normal," Lewis said in a phone interview. "Not to be too cavalier about it, but clearly we've been doing this for a long time so the spontaneity of things tends to be more fun."
Over the years, the ensemble group Huey Lewis and News has blended pop, rock and rhythm and blues into number one hits like "The Power of Love" featured in Back to the Future, "Hip to be Square" and "Stuck With You." The band's formation came nearly 30 years ago, and the front man turned 60 on Monday.
"We don't look as good," Lewis admitted, "but we sound better."
With a couple rehearsals completed, the band has been fine tuning its song lineup and tweaking parts of the program. As the tour progresses, the comfort level will begin to rise. On Thursday, however, the band will be putting all their work to the test in front of the Westport crowd.
"I think we're still improving," Lewis said of the band. "I might be somewhat delusional, but that's what I think."
Before the band won two Grammys, became nominated for an Academy Award and sold 30 million records, Lewis was raised in Marin County, Calif., as Hugh Anthony Cregg III. Back then, people he knew rebelled by listening to psychedelic rock. Lewis and some future band members rebelled by not listening to it. Instead, soul was their music of choice.
"The music was so good and it always sort of untouchable for us," he said.
With a perfect score in the math portion of the SAT, Lewis enrolled in Cornell University to study engineering, but spent a year in Europe and North Africa first. He lived frugally and hitch hiked along the way, all while learning the blues and perfecting his harmonica skills.
When he arrived in upstate New York in the late '60s, he became restless, dropped out of school and headed back to California "where it was all happening," he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.
The early form of the News was known as Clover, and achieved success in the San Francisco Bay area and even backed up Elvis Costello on an album. In 1978, the country-flavored rock band splintered off into its own projects. The band known as Huey Lewis and the News came from the aftermath of the disbanding in 1979.
After several years of relative obscurity, the band broke out in a big way in its third album, "Sports." It sold 10 million records and established the group as one of the biggest of the decade. There was a cover on Rolling Stone magazine, a lawsuit settled out of court after the Ghostbusters theme song allegedly ripped the melody from one of the News' singles and, of course, more hits such as "Heart of Rock & Roll" and "Jacob's Ladder."
Since the band's heyday, it has been touring regularly, now performing about 75 gigs a year. For Lewis, this is the perfect amount compared to the grueling 200-performance tours he's been on in the past.
"When you reduce your schedule a little bit it's like falling all over in love again," Lewis said.
With less demanding tours, Lewis has spent time acting in Hollywood, Broadway and on television. At 10 p.m. Wednesday, he'll be appearing in TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland" sitcom alongside Betty White.
The band's last album was released in 2001, but they just cut a new one in Memphis recently. Details on the album are sparse, but Lewis said there's a focus on the soul and rhythm and blues music he grew up with.
"It's pretty gritty, pretty raw stuff," he said. "It's not everybody's taste."
Before the album drops however, there is Thursday's concert in Westport. Lewis promises "plenty of hits" in addition to some new music.
"It'll be a lot of fun," he said.
The concert is the Levitt Pavilion's annual fundraiser to underwrite more than 50 free performances throughout the summer. The concert begins at 9 p.m. with a pre-concert cocktail party at 7 p.m. Tickets to the concert only are $70 for general admission, $95 for preferred seating and $250 for the pre-concert cocktail party, priority seating at the concert and the after-party. Concert tickets may be purchased by visiting www.levittpavilion.com or by calling 203-226-7600. For more information, call 203-226-7600 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.