A couple days ago I made my first rhubarb pie of the season. Husband picked an enormous amount of rhubarb and I washed it and cut it up, which took three hundred years. But it was worth the effort just to have the incredible, sweet aroma fill the house. Baking pie for my family has got to be near the top of the list of my favorite things to do. And having Huey Lewis & the News on the ipod of course made the chore easier. As you know, I turned forty a couple weeks ago and as part of the week-long celebration I dragged husband to see a Huey Lewis concert. Since the show I’ve been listening to his old stuff and the Live at the 25 CD and completely O.D.ing on Huey and the boys. Total fun. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a teenager, but every time I see them live it’s like discovering them all over again.
In February while talking on Facebook to a friend about the upcoming Tom Petty show, another friend chimed in that Huey was touring this year. He had seen a billboard in Minneapolis advertising a casino concert in his area. I nearly fell over. I looked online at the band website and was elated to see a show date only two and a half hours from here at Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona, Iowa for April 22, two days after my birthday. Happy birthday to me!!! I called the venue the next day and was crushed to learn there was only one ticket left. I pleaded with the ticket agent to see if there were more tickets to be had. No luck. Then I turned to Ebay. Sorry, Huey. I do feel bad that I gave a scalper forty bucks that you didn’t get a cut of. I’d happily paid that extra to you if only the show hadn’t been sold out. Scoring those tickets completely made my day. I was talking about it to everyone the rest of the day. To which some people replied, “Huey who?” So sad. There should be a twelve step program for that.
When the concert day finally arrived, about two months after purchasing tickets, all things were in order. It was a beautiful, spring day. The kids were off to school and had arrangements with grandparents for an overnight, the dogs were being boarded at the kennel, and husband and I were taking the day off from work. This had definitely required more planning than hopping in my brother’s chevy and heading out of town after school for my first Huey concert in 1987, but I knew it would all be worth it.
We stopped in Pella, Iowa for a late lunch at the Smokey Row coffee house and then picked up some pastries at the Jarsma Bakery (it’s just what you do when you’re in Pella, trust me). We were in luck in that the tulips were in full bloom. What an amazing sight. I’ve heard about the Tulip Festival in Pella for years, but have never gone and have never seen the Pella tulips. Truly breathtaking! We strolled around the gardens and the square just taking it all in. Of all the days to leave my camera behind!
After leaving Pella, it was only about 45 minutes to Altoona. We arrived in plenty of time to wander around the casino. We gambled about ten dollars, won nothing, had a couple drinks, and headed to the show. By this time I was completely giddy. It was like Christmas morning. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. When I’d seen the band before at larger arenas so I think I was expecting a pretty big crowd. I was stunned to find out that this venue only held 1200 seats. Our seats turned out to be about thirty rows from the front, about 1/3 of the way back from stage, and centered in front of the stage. Excellent seats!!!! We saw some burly guys walking around with backstage passes hanging around their necks, they obviously worked for the band. In my younger days I’d have considered finagling a way to get closer to the stage, or even a chance to meet the band. But here at forty my only thought was how intrusive and annoying it probably is for the band. And what would I say? “Uh, I love your music. I’m such a fan.” Like they never have heard that before. So we got some drinks and waited for the show to start.
I was amazed to see all the older fans at the show. The band has been around for about thirty years, so it stands to reason that the fans would age, but I didn’t expect to see so much gray hair! As the crowd filled in, the excitement was building. A couple arrived and sat in the seats on my left side. They were in their twenties, the girl was a bit drippy and said nothing, but her date seemed friendly and said hello. I wondered if these were the people I bought the tickets from on ebay.
I read online that at some venues there was an opening act, but at this one there was none. The band took the stage and everyone was on their feet. The first song was one I didn’t know, as were the next three songs. They are all from the upcoming album I assume. They were less rock and roll and more soul, fairly mellow. I liked them and would definitely buy the album, but it’s a totally diffent kind of music than their other albums. I wasn’t surprised, it feels like a natural transition for them since they seem to have been heading in this direction. After the second song people in the thirty rows ahead of me began to sit. I know I’m aging, but I wasn’t ready to sit. So there’s the dilemma, sit and be a good girl, or stand and annoy everyone behind me. I sat, but not happily. A song or two later everyone was on their feet again and pretty much remained so for the duration of the show. Huey is great at getting the crowd involved and so people clapped and danced throughout most of the show. So entirely fun.
I noticed that Huey and the band made the decision to tour even though the new album isn’t out yet. During the show Huey joked about the release date upcoming album “Later this year, or next, or the year after that,” I suppose this is because they tour every year about 70 dates, so they probably would have been on tour anyway, new album or not. Tom Petty, on the other hand, postponed about ten tour dates because the album release was being delayed. This left many people out of luck who had non refundable plane tickets, hotel rooms, etc. Not nice, Tom. Interesting side note: if you buy Tom Petty.com membership and you buy concert tickets with the presale code, you get the Mojo album for free, which is just pretty stinkin’ cool. But that’s a post for another day.
Why don’t rock shows operate as a ballet or stage production, with a program of songs so the audience knows what was played? They did hand out ‘programs’, but they were actually more of an advertisement for the casino steak house and only gave basic info about the band. So, needless to say, I have no set list. I was pretty into the show and didn’t make note of the songs. And to complicate matters, I’ve been watching youtube of old Huey shows and listening to the live at the 25 CD, so it’s a bit muddled in my mind now. (If anyone out there has a set list from the show, please send it along.) This much I know: Back in Time, Do You believe in Love, Perfect World, Heart of Rock and Roll, Power of Love, Want a New Drug, Small World, Long Time/Good Time, Heart and Soul, If This Is It, Thank You #19, Workin’ For a Livin’, and two a capella numbers, one of which was It’s Alright. I wish they’d do more live a capella numbers. I really love them. Mama Said is my favorite. And 1-2-3 is just awesome. And as long as we’re mentioning requests, I’ve always wanted to see Buzz Buzz Buzz live. Just sayin’ in case Huey is reading this. They played about 90 minutes which included one encore of three songs. Workin’ For a Livin’ was part of that. What a fun song. They played it just as good as back in the day. I hoped for Huey to do the jump during that song as he did in the music video, but I guess those days are gone. The live version of You Believe In Love is a different arrangement than we all remember. It’s slower and more groovin’. I really like it. I’ve heard it on Live at the 25 CD and it’s great. But the crowd was trying to sing along to the old version and it just wasn’t working. I love the old version too, but I know that as bands change they need to keep things fresh. They were such a kickin’ band that it’s a little hard for me to see them now and have my old favorites be changed. I do love the band they have become, more soul and rhythm and blues, but I miss the hard driving rock band they used to be. They are a very interesting band, with the 50′ doo wop, rock, and soul all in one show. It’s a bit of a ride, but I love it. I gotta wonder what the twenty somethings in the crowd thought of the a capella numbers. The drippy girl next to me definitely was not enjoying her Huey music education. She texted on her phone all through the show. She completely missed it.
Huey looked fit and sounded great, as did the rest of the band. The horns were completely amazing. And I found myself totally into a guitar solo at one point. And that’s so not like me. He was just awesome. I missed his name, and he’s not listed on HLN.com. He was a black guy, and did a fantastic job and was so fun to watch. I gotta find out who he was. My only complaints about the show, and I cannot believe I have any at all, is that Huey was doing something weird with the mic during the last couple songs. He would move it away from his face and then the mic would not pick up the last word or two. It got to be completely annoying. I read a review online that mentioned this and the possiblity that his ability to hit high notes isn’t what it used to be, which is common for aging singers (though Paul McCartney seems to be the exception). I didn’t notice him having trouble earlier in the show, but maybe it’s that toward the end of the show he has trouble hitting the notes. I dunno, but it pissed me off. My other issue: the band sounded perfect, like they’d done this a zillion times. They were polished. But it felt slick, not personal, and most of the songs sounded pretty much like the album version. Huey is great at making nice with the crowd and talked about hitting a local golf course with the boys earlier in the day, and etc., so he was connecting with the crowd, but I could tell that most of what he said in between songs was the same thing he says at every show. It felt canned at times. And at times the music felt very packaged, like they play the songs the same way every time. It was an awesome show, they are incredible musicians, the crowd was happy and dancing and screaming, and the band seemed like they were totally having fun. But I would have liked to see them loosen up a bit more with their music and the banter with the crowd. Especially in that size venue, it really could have been so much more incredible. As Jack Black says in School of Rock, “One great rock show can change the world.” Indeed. The next day I got online to see where Huey’s tour will take him later this summer. July 22 they’ll be Illinois, near Chicago. I could do that.
I found an interview on Youtube with Huey at his ranch in Montana. He was giving a mini tour of the ranch and my husband thought it was pretty cool. He is itching to visit the ranch. Whadda ya say, Huey? How about a tour in trade for a fresh rhubarb pie? I think that’s pretty fair.