By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
If Kansas played a concert without playing "Dust in the Wind," fans might riot.
But when a band has a treasure trove of hits from a top-selling album, that gets complicated.
Huey Lewis and the News manage that problem just fine.
"The setlist gets changed a lot and rotated through," Lewis said. "Fortunately, we have more than a few hits."
The band will perform tonight at Downstream Casino as part of a tour backing the remastered re-release of "Sports," the 1983 album that propelled the band to icon status. That album featured the hit "Heart and Soul," and four other chart-toppers, such as "The Heart of Rock and Roll," "I Want a New Drug" and "If This is It."
"Sports" was the band's third album. Founded in San Francisco, the band released its first studio album in 1980 and another, self-produced album in 1982. That second album, "Picture This," featured the breakout single "Do You Believe in Love," and went gold in the U.S.
When forming The News, Lewis invited members of his former band, Clover, as well as other musicians, to join. Lewis said he didn't have many expectations for the new effort, because he didn't think he had a pop-friendly voice.
"There weren't a lot of guys who sounded like me in the '70s," Lewis said. "It was all coliseum rock, like Journey. I had a rough baritone; a voice that wasn't that pop-friendly."
"Sports" was also self-produced by the band, partly because of Lewis' fatigue from trying to market the band to record labels, and partly from waiting for labels to reorganize themselves. Finally released in 1983, five of the album's nine songs made Billboard's Top 20, and the album went platinum seven times.
The remastered 30th anniversary album, released last month, features a second disc with every song from the album performed live. Produced by Johnny Colla and the band, the remaster involved culling through 24 different live performances, Lewis said.
The process of remastering and picking the best recordings gave Lewis and other band members a renewed sense of pride in the album, he said Ñ mainly because not a lot of bands could produce their own albums the way they did.
"In '82, there was only one avenue to success, and that was through radio," Lewis said. "Even MTV's playlists mirrored radio hits. For our band, that was the hardest thing to do.
"Some of those songs, hearing them again, I noticed little changes, where the remaster made it sound different. And we're still breaking those originals apart. But I gotta admit, that's the thing we're proudest of. Unknown bands didn't do that back then."
The band was also featured on the soundtrack for "Back to the Future," with the songs "Back in Time" and "The Power of Love."
After "Sports," the band released two other multi-platinum albums, including "Fore!" in 1986 and "Small World" in 1988. In 1991, "Hard at Play" reached gold certification. The band's last album, "Soulsville," was released in 2010.
Songs from those albums include "Stuck with You," "Hip to Be Square" and "Doing it All for My Baby."
The band has also stayed busy touring and with other projects. The band recorded the theme song for the movie "Pineapple Express," and performs about 70 shows a year.
Lewis said the band is also working on new material, some of which will be heard during tonight's concert. One is a Latin-inspired take on getting older. Lewis said the band hasn't decided how to release its newest material yet.
But they'll keep writing. And the advent of indie-produced music and multiple means of distribution might make things easier for the band that carved its own path. Yet, Lewis said the pop genre is even more challenging to write for today than in the '80s or '90s.
"I was talking to Glenn Frey about songwriting, and he said that if you write 10 great songs, you've done a lot," Lewis said. "That's kind of true, not that there aren't more on the way. But it's tougher as a pop-song writer these days. This is not John Coltrane stuff. There's no real format anymore. It's informed by the audience to a certain extent."
Want to go?
Huey Lewis and the News will perform at 8 p.m. tonight at Downstream Casino's outdoor pavilion. Tickets range from $20 to $60. Details: 918-919-6000.