Huey Lewis is 62 years young…and it showed during a 16-song set at the FCC Ball in Hong Kong’s HKCEC last Saturday night. His nine-member band (complete with four-piece horn section) demonstrated that their roots and heart were firmly in the good stuff: RnB, soul and the blues. Bookended by hits “Heart of Rock and Roll” and “Back In Time”, the set had nods to a capella numbers and even 50s classics like Big Joe Turner’s “Shake, Rattle Roll”.
He might not have moved as much as he did in the 80s, but anyone with even a passing remembrance of MTV’s golden era would have had a hard time deciding if Lewis and the News lost a musical step. If anything, they had more energy and verve than many of the attendees.
Before the show, Lewis spent a few minutes talking about his career.
Asia…when is the last time you were here?
Well, we’d never been to Hong Kong. It’s the first time here and we’re going to Japan afterwards. We’ve been to Japan several times. But once you get over the jetlag, it’s the other 22 hours that are especially interesting. The stage time is fine, the gig is fine, but offstage you get to observe different cultures.
Is it the case where you would want to come here and play as a group, but you just haven’t had the chance to?
Yes, sure, but the trouble with this is the travel. It’s so tough to get over here and it’s expensive. We’re a big band — a nine-piece band — and you’ve also got to pull a big chunk out of your schedule. It takes two days to get acclimated and two days to get out here. So you have to plan for it. Generally, it’s not economically good, but it’s always culturally worthwhile.
It is the 30th anniversary of your album Sports. How does it feel to tour that album this year?
Well, it’s been very well received which is great. I’m not a backward-looking guy necessarily. But I am a small business man and I understand economics. So it’s interesting, it’s afforded us to look back 30 years ago. Only 30 years ago. And when you think about 30 years ago, there was no internet, no CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers to speak of. I mean it was really a different time. But it’s interesting to compare the two times.
You’re answering a lot of fan questions on your website. Are you pleased to do that? Is that one of the advantages of keeping the group going now?
Yes. You start a band for any number of different reasons. You want to be a star, or Jimi Hendrix, or you want to get the girl. But ultimately, if you really love music, the object is a career where you can play and people show up. That’s a harder and harder thing to chisel out these days. Andy Warhol’s 15 Minutes of Fame are down to about 8.5 minutes. Fortunately, knock on wood, we still do great.
You recently did a spoof of the American Psycho scene in which you murdered Al Yankovic. Why did you do that? Was it fun?
Yes. The guys at Funny or Die drew up a whole bunch of ideas and I chose that idea because I thought it would be funny. Young kids…all of them in their 20s and very serious, interestingly. We were obviously doing a parody but there weren’t a lot of laughs on the set. It was a lot of serious craft.
You have to hit this mark…
Yes, and we would do a take and they’d say “You’ve got to do it again.” And I’d say “How about a joke?” But it was fun in the end. It came off well.
You’ve played on Thin Lizzy’s live album Live and Dangerous (1978) and they’ve had a bit of a resurgence (in retrospect). What was it like playing with Phil Lynott for people who never got to see him?
He was an incredibly dynamic performer and not only were they a great hard rock band, he also was the quintessential sort of rock singer and so on…a performer. But he had a big heart, you know. And he wasn’t afraid to embrace other sorts of aspects. He wasn’t a one-dimensional sort of guy, and that gave them, I think, a sort of depth that a lot of these heavy metal or hard rock bands don’t have. He was an amazing guy.
Good learning experience for you?
Brilliant. My band Clover was supporting him on tour and he mentored me. Dressed me out of his closet, lectured me on this, that and the other thing on how to do this… I really learned, musically as well, but mostly, how to run a band, how to be a band leader, how to be a performer, how to handle audiences, all that kind of stuff. How to handle a crew too, important stuff.
Do you have a preference for bar shows or stadium shows?
No. It’s all about sound and some of the smaller places — I mean generally speaking — sound better. But only generally. Some larger venues sound great. So I don’t mind either way. It’s all about the sound.
You live in Montana now, right? Love it?
Yes, more cheese, less grass.
What can you do better now as a band leader that you couldn’t before? What do you enjoy more?
Well, I think I’m a better singer than I’ve ever been. I think we’re a better band than we’ve ever been. We make better choices, notewise, and we relax more. It’s like anything — knowledge. I might not have the range that I once had. I’m sure I lost a note or two, but I’m smarter about my choices and I have more resonance. There’s more self-experience.
And you will record again, a new EP?
Yes, we’re going to play a new song tonight. At some point we’ll probably do some new material, yes.
You have 24 hours. You can go anywhere you want. Eat anywhere. See anything. You can go to a variety of different places. Where would you go?
Wow. That’s fascinating. Well, I’d go play golf in Scotland. I would go fly-fishing for steelhead in British Columbia. I would go down to South America to revel in the cuisine. I would go to South Africa to the beach for a couple hours. And then I would come over to Asia for shopping.
That’s a helluva day. Thank you very much.
Huey Lewis and the News will be performing Japan this week: in Tokyo on October 8th and Osaka on October 10th.