Support for this evening’s show is Anna F, an Austrian singer songwriter who has recently released a single called Time Stands Still. I miss the majority of her set, only catching the last two tracks, one of which is about Jimmy Page, who is her favourite guitarist. A female singer songwriter who loves the Led Zeppelin guitarist, would, musically, be right up my street; however, I find the two songs typical and uninspiring. Anna F plays guitar and sings supported by a vast band which included two backing singers, one of which doubled up as the flautist, yet their sound and performance came across as very reserved. Her music is similar to Bic Runga, those quaint, gentle, lilting songs that were popular in the mid 90’s, which didn’t carry enough weight or passion for someone supporting Lenny Kravitz. However, in her defence she has got a pleasant voice, and the rest of the set may have been completely different, in which case, I may be doing her a disservice.
Considering Lenny Kravitz seems to be out of favour with the British music industry at the moment and the price of the tickets seems expensive for the Civic Hall; there is a great turnout for the show. There is nearly an hour’s pause between the support act and the start of Kravitz’s performance, but when the show kicks off, the memory of waiting around is soon wiped. The darkness is lit up with an excessive display of strobes, whilst the audience erupt into cheers and shouts of Lenny. Then, the band launch into Freedom Train, with its pounding introduction, and you can tell, instantly, that Kravitz has collected together a fine ensemble of musicians. The appearance of Lenny Kravitz, sends the crowd into a frenzy, his vocals sounding fantastic and his charismatic presence oozes sexuality and musical prowess.
It is twenty years since Kravitz released his debut album, Let Love Rule, and this tour is in commemoration of that, as well as supporting his latest release It Is Time For A Love Revolution. So you can pretty much guarantee that the set list is going to span all aspects of his musical career, which, I doubt, will disappoint anyone in the audience tonight. He continues with Bring It On, a grinding track with a fantastic 70’s inspired riff taken from his new album, within which Lenny cruises the stage connecting with the every section of the audience. As Kravitz moves into the soulful classic It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, you can appreciate how tight the performance is and how clear the sound is projected throughout the venue, especially when he lets the audience sing the start of the track for him.
Moving through Where Are We Runnin’ into Flower Child, you notice that Lenny’s vocals struggle slightly with the lower register but he unleashes the full power of his range during the chorus which more than compensates for this weakness. The set flows beautifully into the emotional I Belong To You, which is presented with such sensitivity and sincerity that many of the females in the crowd could have easily thought that Kravitz was singing just for them. He proceeds through Believe into Dancin’ Til Dawn, which contains the inevitable but heartfelt tribute to Michael Jackson. Lenny Kravitz sits down to a baby grand piano, for the simple yet beautifully effective ballad I’ll Be Waiting, which crescendos into an amazing guitar solo performed by the incredibly talented Craig Ross, who did his mother proud. Ross, Kravitz and the rest of the band jam on the piano riff with true musicality, demonstrating the connection they all have as a group, which adds an intangible quality to the show.
The house lights come up and Lenny begins to address the audience thanking people for spending their money during a time of recession and the warm reception that has been provided for him. He then proceeds to take photos of the crowd to put onto Facebook and Twitter, which would have been fine if this was only a two minute exercise; however, he takes his time, and unless you are at the front it becomes quite tiresome, especially as he could have played three more songs. Luckily, he wins the crowd over with the rocking track Always On The Run, followed by his famous cover version of The Guess Who’s American Woman. At this point the audience are putty in his hands; he struts from side to side of the stage, thoroughly enjoying every minute of it whilst looking like a rock star should. After Fly Away, Lenny exits the stage for a short time, returning to play Let Love Rule before strapping on his Flying V for Are You Gonna Go My Way? with that infamous riff, that still sounds awesome sixteen years on.
After two hours, you realise why Lenny Kravitz is still in the game after twenty years, despite lack of radio or video air time in this country. His clever blend of rock, soul, funk and jazz means that his music rarely sounds dated, and allows him the freedom to be this enigmatic performer that is a sensitive balladeer, a funk legend and a rock god all in one performance. As for the price of the tickets, what you are paying for is a show, not a gig, which is worth every penny but part of me would love to see Kravitz play a gig with unpolished sound and minimal lighting, just some dirty rock’n’roll.
Words by Toni Woodward
Photos by Bianca Barrett