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A musical 4th

Fired-up audiences are sure to have a red-hot time at the U. or BYU

Two stadiums, two audiovisual extravaganzas . . . one night.

It's that time again. The University of Utah and Brigham Young University rivalry is back, with its annual competition . . . and we're not talking basketball or football.

We're talking the Fourth of July.

The U.'s Red Hot Fourth is once again up against BYU's Stadium of Fire.

Both feature music. Both feature fireworks. And both feature the patriotic spirit.

The U.'s Rice-Eccles stadium show will feature a local country act that hit the big time — SHeDAISY — but the headliner is veteran rock, blues and pop act Huey Lewis & the News. Meanwhile, the show at BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium will offer the Polynesian Cultural Center Fire Dancers, and headliner Sawyer Brown.

Both begin at 8 p.m., and tickets for both shows can be purchased at all Smith'sTix outlets or by calling 1-800-888-TIXX. Tickets for the Stadium of Fire can also be purchased by calling 1-800-322-BYU1.

"We actually played the Stadium of Fire before," said Huey Lewis with a laugh during a phone interview from his home in Kentfield, Calif. "It looks like this year we'll be playing the Red Hot Fourth."

As for Sawyer Brown, keyboardist Gregg "Hobie" Hubbard said the band has never played a Fourth of July celebration in Utah.

"From what I've heard from friends who live in the area say it's an amazing display of fireworks and music," said Hubbard, who cited the Eagles and Elton John as some of his musical influences. "I'm pretty excited we're going to be a part of it."

Lewis, who hit the top of the charts with the No. 1 singles "Power of Love," "Stuck with You" and "Jacob's Ladder" in the mid-1980s, said that contrary to what people might perceive, the News never broke up.

"Oh, no," Lewis said. "We play a minimum of 80 shows a year. People think we broke up because they don't hear any new News songs on the radio."

But that's not the band's fault. They've been releasing albums regularly. In fact, the band's new album, "Plan B," came out last month. Although radio has turned its back on new News sounds — like it has on any new music from classic-rock bands that are still releasing albums — Lewis said the situation is very liberating.

"Back when we were making our hits, we wrote songs knowing it would have to be on the radio," Lewis explained. "Now, we are making music, and we could care less about what's popular. But to tell you the truth, our bread and butter is the live shows. We put most of our energy in that now."

Sawyer Brown recently released its first live album, "The Hits Live." But unlike the News, the country-pop band hasn't really been shunned by radio.

"Throughout our (19-year) career, we've had times when the hits have been incredibly strong," said Hubbard of such songs as "All These Years," "This Time" and "This Night Won't Last Forever." "But there were times when we were on the low end of radio play. I still think we'd be making albums and playing music without radio hits. It's nice, but we love the music so much, it wouldn't matter to us."

Lewis, whose real name is Hugh Anthony Cregg III, said new News album has captured the feeling of the band's live show. "It's not a live album with an audience, but I think it's a snapshot of how energetic our live shows can be. Instead of going into the studio and creating the performance, we went in the studio with it all ready to go. In fact, some of the songs on the album have been road-tested from as far back as five years ago."

Sawyer Brown approaches its live shows with an initial set list.

"We do write one down, but I can probably count on one hand how many times we've actually followed one," Hubbard said with a laugh. "We get on stage and have fun. It's our vacation. And you also have to feel what the audience is like. There might be a time when they want to hear more ballads. And there might be times when they want to kick it out."

Lewis began his musical career as a self-proclaimed "blues snob." "I played the mouth harp and was influenced by Little Walter and a lot of blues and rhythm and blues artists. But when I joined my first band in college, I changed. The frat parties we played at wanted to hear current stuff, and then I realized that there are certain types of music which are fun to listen to, but all music is fun to play."

Lewis and the News have more than 10 albums to their credit, and two — 1983's "Sports" and 1986's "Fore!" — made it to No. 1.

"We've done the popular stuff," Lewis said. "Now we're just trying to play as good as we can get."

Sawyer Brown is currently in the studio recording a follow-up to its recent "The Hits Live" album.

"It's exactly where we want to be at this moment," said Hubbard. "And we're going to keep on playing for as long as we can."


E-mail: scott@desnews.com