Nothing quite marks summer for me like the PNE concerts! The stage is awkward, the walk to the media pit from the office, dodging through a nutty festival crowd is long and daunting (sort of), the smell of popcorn and ribs and fried onions fills the air, in between whiffs of animals from the show barns nearby. The audience is surrounded by screaming thrill-seekers and the rattle of roller coaster wheels on tracks.This one was packed! People seem to have been waiting for a Huey Lewis & The News show for a while. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but like everyone here (perhaps most strikingly the guy in the white Miami Vice suit strutting around, knowing he was hot shit), was anticipating a parade of 80s hits that defined some key memories from my younger days. Lewis himself proved to be a really engaging banterer, even if the level of stage activity during the music was quite mellow. Not that this music calls for a massively boisterous stage presence – it is just quite a contrast to his humorous, chatty speeches between songs. One of the first things he said after a few tunes was how nice it was to be back in Vancouver, “…scene of many of our innumerable indiscretions.”
Of course, there was a lot of brass on stage, which was referred to as the ‘Sports Section Horns.’ At one point, there was a grand saxophone solo by original ‘News’ member Johnny Colla on top of a monitor, but somehow the spotlight was off to the side a bit and he noticed this (as he was in a dark green wash), jumped off the monitor and ran over to the spotlight himself. Later Lewis, while introducing the band, informed us that Colla “dyes his hair grey to give the band a little gravitas.” Likewise, he spoke of his lonnng relationship with Sean Hopper. “He and I were in an unplugged band before The News. That started shortly after Ben Franklin invented electricity.” Scathing! He and his drummer Bill Gibson went to grade 7 and 8 together. “He was born and raised and still lives in Hollywood but his father is from Winnipeg so he’s kinda Canadian.” The band did a bit of a capella while gathered together near the front of the stage, culminating in the audience participating with a series of ah-ah-ah-ahs.
Lewis made a big lead-in to a new track called “While We’re Young,” which he dedicated to all the people in his own age range. He is very aware people are there for the 80s hits, but they wanted to play the new track. “The band wants to play it – it’s not even me. It’s just five minutes, guys, and after it’s done, no matter what you thought of it, just clap and cheer anyways.” The song was received well, and the audience was rewarded further after when the band sailed right into “Back In Time.” Unsurprisingly the encore began with “Power of Love,” a song Lewis prefaced by stating, “I know what you want – another new song! Well, this one’s sort of new. It’s only 29 years old. Who knew when we wrote this way back then that we’d have to play it every night for the rest of our lives.” They trooped through after with “Stuck On You,” but the audience had gotten what they really needed and a lot of them filed out during that song. Good times though! Great blast from the past.