There's not a lot that Huey Lewis and the News seem to have in common with Chicago beyond prolific hitmaking. One is a group of pub-rockers that made extraordinarily good, while the other was an arty jazz-rock horn band that eventually morphed into adult contemporary balladeers. But as they shared the stage Tuesday at the
Lewis and his band might well have been the Tommy James and the Shondells of the 1980s: they weren't fireballs of talent but hardworking pop craftsmen led by an effective if unexceptional singer performing catchy songs that managed to stick. If their success seemed more the result of a lucky streak than artistic progress, it lasted long enough to supply Lewis with a respectable catalog.
Lewis maintained his regular-guy image by casually sauntering onstage with no fanfare and starting ``Build Me Up" alone on harmonica. A few moments of vocal strain notwithstanding, Lewis sounded fine, delivering what was essentially a small-club show slightly expanded. The Stax-isms and blues influence underlying ``We're Not Here for a Long Time (We're Here for a Good Time)" and ``Bad Is Bad" may have been sanitized, but they were spirited, showing that after 25 years, Lewis and the News are still a bar band, workin' for a livin'.
By contrast, Chicago was almost the textbook definition of a dinosaur act, going through the motions while struggling to stay relevant. With the horn section front and center, strutting and preening with a benevolent arrogance, the band mixed old indulgences with a few perfunctory attempts at new material. The audience responded accordingly, sitting down both at the start of the drum solo during ``Beginnings" and at the mere mention of the flavorless new single ``Feel."
The set list underlined Chicago's split personality, showcasing a band that cherished the overlong instrumental improvisation of ``So Much to Say, So Much to Give" and ``Just You 'n' Me" even as it sought pop stardom through lightweight hits like ``Feelin' Stronger Every Day" and ``Saturday in the Park." Unlike Lewis, Chicago played like a band convinced of its own importance, rather than a bunch of guys grateful to have made it this far.