It's been nearly a decade since Lenny Kravitz's heyday. For those who don't remember, he was ubiquitous on rock radio and won four straight Best Male Rock Vocal Performance Grammys from 1999-2002, and sold practically as many albums as Nelly. Backed by a seven-piece band last night, the rocker mixed in songs from his latest album, Black and White America, and old standards from his catalog.
He moved to L.A. when he was 10, and though he now lives in Paris Kravitz's heart remains in Los Angeles; at least that's what he told the Nokia Theatre crowd. Playing his first headlining show in the city in nearly four years, the rock veteran was loose throughout his 17-song set. Per custom, Kravitz had an elaborate stageshow consisting of strobe lights and a visual background shaped like pyramids, which projected photos and computer generated images. Throughout the night, the singer was engaging; constantly shaking hands and smiling at the audience.
Old staples like his version of the Guess Who's “American Woman” and “Fly Away” received the biggest cheers, though new songs like the title track of his latest album and an acoustic version of “Push” were also well-received. Mixing rock, R&B and blues, his hits have aged well and sounded crisp. The extended jams — like 1993's “Are You Gonna Go My Way” — felt natural and the band had dynamic solos.
Lenny Kravitz's aura may be not be what it once was, but he sounds as good as he did when his first single (and the final song of the night) “Let Love Rule” was released in 1989. The fans' flailing arms and screams of approval demonstrated that no matter how hard he may try to lay low, they're going to remain loyal.
Raphael Saadiq opened. Having released the underrated Stone Rollin' last year, the former Tony! Toni! Toné! singer/bassist demonstrated why he's one of the better live acts going. Sporting his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, the Grammy-nominated singer/producer played an abridged set that was well-received. Songs off Stone Rollin' translated well live, which was due to the energetic frontman and trusted backing band. It's a shame that the venue has a tight curfew or else fans would have been treated to more songs and had the chance to see more of this maestro in action.
Personal Bias: Kravitz hasn't lost it, but would have liked him to bring Saadiq on stage for a song. Could have been epic.
Crowd: Folks of all ages and races.
Random Notebook Dump: Kravitz is going to be 48 this year!
Set list below:
Come On Get It
Always on the Run
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over
Mr. Cab Driver
Black And White America
Fields of Joy
Stand By My Woman
Rock And Roll Is Dead
Rock Star City Life
Where Are We Runnin'?
Are You Gonna Go My Way
Let Love Rule