Jazz Fest review: Huey Lewis still has that ‘Heart and Soul’

Huey Lewis speaks at a pre-show press conference in Montreal on July 1, 2015 (photo by Gabriel Sigler).

Huey Lewis speaks at a pre-show press conference in Montreal on July 1, 2015 (photo by Gabriel Sigler).

With the glossy 80’s record production and soft-rock hits, it’s often easy to forget that at heart, Huey Lewis and the News are basically a great soul band. For their first Montreal show in nearly 30 years, the band whipped through a gimmick-free 100-minute set that emphasized the band’s love of traditional soul and RN’B, without ever feeling like a nostalgia trip.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre introduced the band beforehand, in a pun-filled Bilingual opening monologue in which he described listening to the band “over and over as a young university student.”

The band then kicked off with ‘The Heart of Rock N’ Roll,” and up went the predominantly middle-aged crowd, although they just as quickly sat back down en masse as the band moved on to “If This Is It,” likely eager to return to their plush seats.

Although the majority’s of the band’s hits are nearly three decades old, Lewis refuses to completely bow over to the nostalgia train; the band performed two songs from a forthcoming album, including “Her Love is Killing Me,” a straight-forward blues-rock number that packed as much punch as their classic 80’s output.

A mid-set a cappella section demonstrated how powerful Lewis’ voice is, and how well it plays off the band’s intertwined melodies, especially during their doo-wop take on Bobby Day’s 1957  classic “Little Bitty Pretty One,” which the crowd happily clapped along to.

The band are intrinsically tied to their contributions to the Back to the Future soundtrack, and “The Power of Love” easily received the loudest crowd response of the night, with the Marty McFly impersonator in the crowd particularly loving every minute of the band’s most anthemic song.

Their lone concession to the Jazz Fest moniker they were performing under took hold during a rollicking version of 1983’s “Bad is Bad,” which saw nearly every member of the 8-piece band take a quick solo, including a 3-piece horn section.

For all their associations with disposable 80’s pop nostalgia, Huey Lewis and the News are still touring strong nearly four decades on because they genuinely seem to enjoy playing with each other. Nothing about the set felt like a cheap cash grab—it was simply another well-oiled show for the band, even though it was 30 years coming for the majority of the crowd.

Before the show, Huey Lewis participated in a quick press conference, which also included an introduction by Mayor Coderre. We were able to ask Lewis about his thoughts on the band’s inclusion in Brett Easton Ellis’ controversial American Psycho novel, as well as the memorable scene they were featured in during the film adaptation. You can listen to his great response below.

For all upcoming tour dates, visit hueylewisandthenews.com

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