Lenny Kravitz @ Arena Birmingham 20 June, 2018

The venue has been made into a more intimate affair for tonight’s performance by moving the stage far forward which allows Lenny Kravitz to maximise arena sound and stage size whilst maintaining the closeness to the audience; it is this combination that pays off particularly at the end of the show. Needless to say, Lenny’s entrance is in no way understated. Encompassed in two halves of a circle and on a raised platform in the centre of the stage, Mr Kravitz unleashes the classic guitar riff of Fly Away which leads into some magnificently funky slap bass courtesy of Gail Ann Dorsey. This essentially sums up the attraction of Lenny Kravitz’s music, a fine combination of guitar based rock with funk and soul that flows throughout the set yet there isn’t anything over complicated about either his lyrics or music as he has an ear for a great hook.

Despite this being a tour in support of his new album, Raise Vibration, Kravitz predominantly incorporates tracks spanning his recording career, which is now impressively into its thirtieth year. Dig In and Bring It On sees the musician descend from the lofty heights to work the crowd by moving from side to side of the stage with his unique sexual swagger and seductive vocals that fill the venue with a richness few seem able to capture. Followed by his cover version of The Guess Who’s American Woman, which Lenny Kravitz has claimed as his own, and he has won over the audience. From the moment he enters the stage, Lenny makes it his mission to  engage with the crowd whether it be singing, clapping or flirting with eager females and the energy amongst the audience grows with people responding in a variety of ways including head banging and flashing of breasts, which in turn seems to increase the vibe onstage yet his talking is kept to a minimum by not addressing the audience until after a slick segue into an adaptation of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up.

The only songs taken from Raise Vibration, It’s Enough and Low, are played in succession and unfortunately see quite a few people head to the bar. It’s Enough has an essence of Marvin Gaye about it, encapsulating a laid back soul vibe which utilises his awesome backing band to produce a warm, deep underlying sound with a superb trumpet solo at the hands of Ludovic Louis that draws the song to a close. Low reminds me of an updated I Belong To You (which makes a welcome appearance later in the set) with its catchy call and response refrain which I can imagine being a staple part of the Kravitz set in the future.

The highlights of the main set come from the classic 1991 album, Mama Said; the snare drum roll introduction to It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over heralds a truly beautiful record of longing that has truly stood the test of time, possibly because it had a vintage feel when it was initially released, plus the hip swaying guitar groove of Always On The Run and Slash’s guitar solo which is owned by Craig Ross. Kravitz is yet to release his finest tunes of the night , saving them for his two encores.

Encore number one sees Lenny at a piano that is elevated to the side of the stage for the sentimental song of yearning, I’ll Be Waiting, with its simple piano chords and raw emotional lyrics that is enough to bring a tear to the most stoic eye. A more positive ideological sensibility is released with an elongated version of Let Love Rule that sees Mr Kravitz take a tour of the arena, including into the seating area much to the pleasure of the many adoring fans followed by a wander around the back of the standing section that results in some of the more over zealous being moved to one side by the security. But even this is not Lenny Kravitz’s finale. He returns playing the Flying V and we all know what is in store, a supreme rendition of Are You Gonna Go My Way? with its phenomenal riff and drum beat. This was the only way to draw such a great performance to a close and it left everyone in the venue celebrating the rock, funk, soul, retro god that is Lenny Kravitz, and rightly so.

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

Photographer: Andy Watson

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