Yesterday we celebrated America’s birthday, today we celebrate Huey Lewis’s. But even Huey himself was on hand to celebrate America’s yesterday when he and the News performed in DC at “A Capitol Fourth,” the annual shindig on the lawn of the Capitol.
As a fan it’s nice to see HLN get the kind of exposure and respect such an invitation affords, and it was also nice as a fan to have the performance so helpfully beamed to me by PBS. But having previously endured these DC affairs before, I’m acutely aware how awful they are to attend.
For one thing, it is at best bitterly ironic (to say nothing of unconstitutional) that people must surrender their Fourth Amendment rights in order to attend these celebrations of “freedom.” When I attended in 2004 I was appalled to discover I was not able to enter this public event in a public park without “voluntarily” submitting to invasive searches of my person and possessions. On that occasion, while I waited in the entrance line like a lamb to slaughter, I heard Clay Aiken belt out how proud he was to be an American, “Where at least I know I’m free.” I suppose he was able to maintain that illusion because as a performer he likely wasn’t forced to undergo these invasions of his privacy. But as one of the teeming masses, I was much less sure.
The other problem with these events is that they’re really designed for the television audience — a completely banal, milquetoasty television audience. Consequently they suffer as a live event, which is a shame for a band like HLN, which is such a consummate live band (even Jimmy Smits in his corny introduction acknowledged them as such). It also always drives me up the wall as someone so familiar and appreciative of their work that they are so often regarded as a banal, milquetoasty band. But maybe that’s changing…
See, the other bit of Huey Lewis news is that they have a new song, released this week on MySpace, the first studio effort since 2001. Seth Rogan asked them to do the title song to his new movie, Pineapple Express. I’d worried about what the lyrics would be like given that constraint, but it turns out they’re eminently serviceable and much better than I feared (on par with “Back in Time,” itself a title song from 1985’s Back to the Future, which still has legs today). The real story though is the music, and for those who’ve not heard HLN for a while I recommend it as a snapshot of their current sound. It’s the same energy-driven musical layering they’ve been doing since well before the Sports era, but now with a built-in horn section and increased R&B flavor. I can say nothing about the movie, but I can definitely vouch for the song.
Of course, I’m obviously biased, but you don’t need to take my word for it — even the Wall Street Journal thinks so.
In fact, listening to it closely now I think it’s more the pity they didn’t do this song last night in Washington. But then, that’s the kind of rebel I am…