Veteran rocker Huey Lewis heads to Chastain Park
The Gwinnett Daily Post
By Robert J. Nebel
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the Michael J. Fox flick “Back to the Future” enthralled moviegoers across the country and spawned the hit single “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News.
“Power of Love” seemed to capture the hope and optimism of the mid-’80s. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The country was in a relative state of peace. And across America, turntables, tape decks and a new device called a compact disc player blasted Huey Lewis and the News.
Now, two decades later, Lewis and his band are heading to Chastain Park Amphitheatre on Wednesday night, where they’ll draw from a repertoire that includes hits such as “Heart and Soul,” “I Want A New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “If This Is It” and, of course, “Power of Love.”
Lewis, who as a young man scaled the pop charts and graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, said he’s comfortable playing to more subdued audiences in venues like Chastain.
“We were once a beer and hot dog band, and now we are playing to the wine and cheese set,” he joked in a recent interview. “I like a crowd that likes to sit down. People say, ‘Well, that’s no fun.’ I have a bad back, personally, and if I want to go see somebody, I want to sit down.”
The road to stardom
If the past is any indication, however, a bad back now doesn’t mean Lewis will slow down. He got his start in the 1970s with a band called Clover. Lewis then formed his own band, the News, in 1980 and released a self-titled debut album, which performed poorly.
But the band got a second chance with “Picture This,” which included the hit single “Do You Believe in Love?” The song hit No. 7 on the Billboard Top 40 chart.
Lewis followed that up in 1983 with the classic “Sports,” which contained a number of hits, including “Heart and Soul” “The Heart of Rock and Roll” and “If This Is It.” The success of “Sports” catapulted Lewis to his work on the “Back to the Future” soundtrack and film, in which he made his acting debut in a cameo role.
Lewis produced more hits in the ’80s, including “Stuck With You,” “Doing It All For My Baby” and “Perfect World.” As the ’90s rolled around, he returned to his musical roots with more personal and organic records such as “Hard At Play” in 1991 and the all-cover album, “Four Chords & Several Years Ago” in 1994.
Songs like “(She’s) Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Shake Rattle and Roll” inspired Lewis to rebuild his band’s sound from the ground up. For “Four Chords,” Huey and the band shed themselves of modern-day recording technology and put together the album as though it had been recorded several years before.
“The songs didn’t need overdubs,” Lewis said. “We recorded it with two mics and we fell in love with it. It was a great lesson in how songs are written and arranged.”
Lewis has continued to record and perform, but he’s also dipped his toe into the acting pool. In 1993, he played Vern Miller, an angler with no shame in the Robert Altman film “Short Cuts.”
Asked if it was embarrassing to play a fly-fisherman who relieves himself on camera, Lewis said: “Hey, I’m in show business, I’ll do anything for attention. I got all the bottled water I could drink and I got to wear makeup in the daytime.”
Lewis, who fishes himself and is an old friend of Altman’s, was a consultant on the film. His other acting credits include “Land of Milk and Honey,” “Shadow of Doubt” and the 2000 film “Duets” with Gwyneth Paltrow.
After this tour, Lewis will combine acting and music when he joins the cast of “Chicago” on Broadway.
“I was originally asked to join ‘Music Man,’ and I turned it down,” he said. “I didn’t think the part was for me” he said. “Four years later, [the producers] inquired if I would like to do ‘Chicago.’ I saw the show and thought to myself that I can do it.”
Coming to Atlanta
During his years of touring, Lewis has been to the metro area several times over the years.
“My first memory of Atlanta was eating at Ma Hull’s,” he said of the Inman Park eatery. “They had a great Sunday breakfast brunch. All the rock bands used to stop by there.”
Lewis said he appreciates the vitality and musical influences that come from the area.
“I like the Allman Brothers and the Capricorn Records crowd,” he said. “Atlanta is a soulful town.”
What: Huey Lewis and the News
Where: Chastain Park Amphitheatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday