Huey Lewis and the News at the Borgata, 06-19-2015

DSCN1607On June 19th, I went down to the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, NJ, to see Huey Lewis and the News. It turned out to be a more emotional event than I had anticipated, but it was also an awesome show.

I suppose it shows my age that Huey is one of my favorite groups. My teenage years spanned the 1980s, the era of Back to the Future, which is when Huey Lewis and the News really shot to fame. The soundtrack of my life is peppered with Huey songs, so hearing them brought back tons of good memories.

DSCN1602At one point Huey asked how many in the audience were first-timers at one of his concerts, and a surprising number said they were. While not that many “young” kids like teens, there were plenty in their late twenties, early thirties. That made me feel good for Huey and company. And then I felt really old when he reminded us that the band has been together for 37 years.

I’m going to run down their set list. I didn’t have a pen, so some of these are out of order but I believe I got them all.

DSCN1501He opened with his usual Heart of Rock and Roll. A steady heartbeat throbs through the dark and still theater, until the band is in position and they explode into the song. Very effective in getting the crowd excited.

Huey then rocked the house with I Want A New Drug, and slowed it down with If This Is It, and He Don’t Know.

DSCN1540Sprinkled in there somewhere were two new songs: Her Love Is Killing Me and While We’re Young. Her Love Is Killing Me sounds like one of his classic love ballads, and While We’re Young features the group’s characteristic humor as they poke fun at the trials and tribulations of growing older.

Those who have seen Huey live know that he always does an a cappella set. This time around it was not truly a cappella, as he had light instrumental accompaniment, but they still sounded good. He did not do the usual songs he reserves for this set, but did one I did not know where the refrain was something like “Da-da-dee”, and a fantastic rendition of Under the Boardwalk, which he said they worked up that afternoon just for us. (If anyone knows the first song, please let me know what it was.)

DSCN1575The rest of the show flew by with Rhythm Ranch, Heart and Soul, We’re Not Here for a Long Time, and Jacob’s Ladder.

Naturally the band had to do an encore, which they opened with their signature Power of Love (aka “the DSCN1594song we’ve played every night of our lives for the last 29 years.”) Huey then invited Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Killers, to join them onstage for Do You Believe In Love?, and then Huey Lewis and the News wrapped up the whole thing with Workin’ for a Living.

DSCN1585They did not do Stuck With You or Hip to Be Square (my personal teenage anthem), but with so many fantastic songs to choose from, we were rather spoiled for choice! The show was everything I have come to expect from Huey and his band. The performance was high-energy, Huey had great rapport with the audience, and as usual the band’s wonderful musicianship shone.

Huey Lewis and the News—better than ever and still hard at play.


The Insidious Persistence of Grief

Regular readers of my blog know I struggle with anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be exacerbated by many things, such as lack of sleep and a collision of multiple outside stressors. Basically, anything that knocks aside my regular routine can trigger a rise in anxiety—even if I really want to do whatever it is that rocks the boat.

Over the past few weeks, my anxiety has been through the roof. I assumed at first that the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference was the culprit, since that is a major bump in my routine. Three days away from home, mixing and mingling, add in lack of sleep, and that’s enough to trigger me.

DSCN9802The PWC came and went, but the anxiety remained—a tension that ran from my throat to my stomach. Maybe my daughter’s preschool graduation was stressing me? That, too, came and went with no change. On top of the tension, I felt weepy, too—rather odd for me. What was going on?

Friday, June 19th, my anxiety peaked. The strangled feeling at the base of my throat made it hard to swallow, and made talking difficult. I didn’t want to eat. Anxiety-fatigue sucked the life from me, but I fought against it, recognizing my long-time enemy. I got my daughter ready for her first sleep-over, while often on the verge of tears.

That night, my husband and I went to see Huey Lewis and the News at the Borgata in Atlantic City. I knew the concert couldn’t possibly be the source of my anxiety. I had hardly even thought about it, I’d been so busy the past few weeks. Besides, the normal things I stress about—the driving and the venue—didn’t exist this time. My husband drove, and I had been to Atlantic City (although not the Borgata) enough times to feel at ease. I had even seen Huey Lewis twice before.

DSCN1540Huey Lewis put on a great show, as I expected. I rocked out, and every song brought a tsunami of memories from my younger days. Then he played Jacob’s Ladder. I teared up. My nose got sniffly. A sob rose in my throat.

And I understood.

Jacob’s Ladder was never one of my favorite Huey songs, but it took on new meaning when my friend Donna Hanson Woolman got cancer. The song is about a man trying to better his life, climbing “step by step, rung by rung” and all he wants from tomorrow “is to get it better than today.” Whenever I heard that song while Donna was fighting for her life, that was my wish—for the chemo to work a little every day, to climb back to health—to get it better than today.

One of the memories that had come flooding back as I listened to Huey Lewis play at the Borgata was the last time I had seen him play. Back in 2001, the group had toured to support their new album Plan B. Donna and I had seen them at the Keswick Theater, and that concert stands as one of the best I have ever seen. Huey played for more than 3 hours. He had to get permission from the unions to play past curfew. He rocked the house and Donna and I rocked with him, thrilled when he played songs he rarely played in his regular length sets.

That was the last concert I went to with Donna.

My mind had forgotten…

But my heart remembered.



When has grief caught you unawares?

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