Review: Huey Lewis brings the heart of rock ‘n’ roll to Naples

Huey Lewis and the News (â“Power of Love,â” â“Heart of Rock â‘nâ’ Rollâ”) will be at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Nov. 2

Huey Lewis and the News (â“Power of Love,â” â“Heart of Rock â‘nâ’ Rollâ”) will be at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Nov. 2

The heart of rock ’n’ roll was definitely beating inside the Philharmonic Center of the Arts on Wednesday night, but it took a while for that organ to pump blood through many of the bodies within the audience and get them moving to that same old back-beat rhythm.

Nevertheless, the performance by Huey Lewis and the News was as if the band that topped the charts in the 1980s had literally been transported into the future by some sort of time-traveling machine — let’s say, in a DeLorean. The sound coming from the band seemed as fresh and solid as when Huey and his fellow rockers first wowed crowds in their heyday more than three decades ago.

The show was so “tight,” as several female fans who ventured up near the stage called it, that by the end of the night, the band had brought the house to a standing ovation. The majority of the previously stoic audience were daring to rise up out of their seats and even dance — something not often seen inside the Phil.

It’s true that the Philharmonic isn’t exactly known for bringing hard rocking bands to its center stage — in fact, it’s known for its more classical selections, Broadway musicals and operas — but it seems as though this decision was a wise one. The show was sold out.

And it looks as if the Phil’s management is going to continue to use that obvious draw to its advantage, as seen by its upcoming schedule. Fellow ’80s rockers Kansas will be performing with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra next week (see Showcase in today’s editions), and the orchestra will present “The Music of Queen” later this month.

The show on Wednesday started right on time and without an opening act. The band, which is made up of four original members — Huey, Bill Gibson, Johnny Colla and Sean Hopper — and several new members, including two young female backup singers who helped Huey belt out some of the band’s more “bluesy” numbers, can still pack venues.

Instead of jumping right into their well-known hits, the band first performed nine songs off their new album — their first in nine years — called “Soulsville.” Huey, the perennial smooth salesman and joker, reminded the crowd twice that the compact discs were on sale in the lobby.

“We need you to buy it,” he told them, later adding, “Two words: stocking stuffers.”

Then, in hopes of truly getting some new sales, Lewis said, “And tonight only, if you purchase it, I will personally come over to your house and wash your car.”

That lured quite a few more audience members out of their seats and elicited some squeals from the women, particularly those in their middle ages — the ones who remember watching Huey on MTV when the cable channel still played music videos. While the crowd contained quite a fair number of both sexes in that age group, the majority of the audience looked to be retirees and the area’s recently returned part-time residents. In other words, the snowbirds are back in town.

After going through about half of the band’s new “soul” songs, it seemed that Huey could sense a slight frustration in the audience.

“Do I see a few furrowed brows?” he asked, referring to the crowd’s seemingly mute reaction to the new “soul” tunes from the band. “Don’t worry, we have plenty of time tonight.”

A few songs later, the band finally opened up the repertoire that most in the audience were patiently waiting for, starting off with one of their most well-known, “Heart of Rock and Roll.”

That was the tune that finally turned the crowd around. The audience erupted in joyous applause at the first few lines of the song. But only about a dozen women — and even fewer men — were brave enough to rise and groove to the beat.

It wasn’t until later in the night, when the band broke out other famous hits like “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug” that Huey finally had the crowd wrapped around his little finger.

Despite the general audience reserve, a few, like Marcy Wright, literally ran out of her seat and approached the stage with her friends in tow.

The Naples resident said she has been an avid fan of the band for all of their

30-plus years, and this was her third concert. Wright first learned of Huey Lewis and the News when she lived in California in the ’80s — the band’s home state — and has been following and listening to them ever since.

When she heard about the rockers coming to Naples, what many believed was their first time to the town, Wright said she snatched up the tickets as soon as they were available. And she was glad for that decision, as well as for deciding to approach the stage. Despite the ushers asking several to return to their seats due to complaints, Wright stayed near the stage and had the chance to take Huey’s hand when he approached her. The look on her face was one of pure rapture.

After playing for about 90 minutes, the band finally left the stage, leaving the audience asking and yelling for more. Some chanted “Huey” over and over, until the band made its expected return, starting off the encore with the song that helped make “Back to the Future” as popular as it is — “Power of Love.”

But before they played, Huey had one point to make to the crowd.

“We’d love to play more,” he said, then kneeling down to ask a man in front row what time it was. “But it’s 9:40. In other words, about 20 minutes before 10 p.m.”

The 61-year-old frontman continued to tease the crowd, saying that it was way past his bedtime. The band then took a few requests from the audience, and ended the show with an oldie but a goody, “Workin’ For A Livin’,” a song off the band’s second, not so well-known, album, “Picture This.”

Jim and Courtney Miller of Naples, who have been following the band as long as Wright, also snagged tickets to the show at the earliest convenience.

“After 33 years, I think they still have the rock and roll beat,” Jim Miller said toward the end of the show. “I can listen to them all the time.”

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