It's really difficult not to like Lenny Kravitz. He has always had enough rock star swagger about him that makes the men want to be him, and just enough sensitivity that a woman could spend a raucous Saturday night with him but still feel comfortable introducing him to her parents.
Tonight, in a cauldron hot Webster hall (Mr Kravitz apparently insisted on no A/C ), his likeability monitor is being seriously tested, as the dripping in sweat crowd are kept impatiently waiting for his much prolonged entrance. And then it happens. The band slowly drift onto the stage, and the unmistakable strut of Lenny Kravitz saunters ever so slowly but purposely up to the microphone.
We kick off with a nice little song off the new album, Dirty White Boots, though all doesn't seem well in Lenny land just yet; the band are not as tight as you would expect from such a masterful pro, and his frustration is evident. But then the crowd parts, and Lenny raises his hands and declares, “New York City!”, which is met by a roar that almost drowns out the opening chords to the smash hit American Woman, and suddenly the band are tight as a snare drum, inspired, and feeding off their leader and the hot, pulsating theatre. The sweater-comfy It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over is up next, but before the familiar melody kicks in, Lenny proudly states that he “still believes in love”. As he delivers the lines, “So many tears we cried”, no doubt mind images he has of accompanying ex-wife, Lisa Bonnet, at the previous nights Met Gala. Dancing Till Dawn is up next, and again the band stutter as Lenny demands a song restart by famed drummer, Cindy Blackman Santana. This time, it's spot on, and by the end of the song everyone seems a little more chilled.
At this point, my eyes start to drift around the stage and take in the other band members, of which there is a considerable number. Eleven, to be exact, and there are a couple of amazing trumpet solos by the somewhat lent-on Ludovic Louis. There's no point in me even mentioning Gail Ann Dorsey (though I just did); she's always there underpinning the groove, as she has done for so many great artists over the years.The three backing singers: sassy, sexy, and very '70s, shimmer and sway effortlessly through every number, all with ranges that are very rarely tested by these songs, but with gusto and guile all the same.
We saunter through, it seems, the Rolling Stones-inspired Always On The Run, Sister and the crowd pleaser, New York City, but it's Mama Said that reminds the crowd that they're still in the presence of a superstar, and Lenny and the band don't disappoint on this one, with rousing guitar solos all round .The ever commercial I Belong To You leads us into a 20-minute rendition of Let Love Rule that had the crowd entirely entranced, up until the chugging guitar riff of I Want To Get Away screamed out around the theatre. Kravitz is in full flow now, belting the vocals, and sensing he has the crowd set up nicely for the encore. And so he has. Here comes Are You Gonna Go My Way? It's a hit whatever way you play it, in any year; it's just a great balls to the wall, rock pop anthem, and every fan knows every word. Lenny is beaming now, and as the show winds to a close, he looks up to his fans on the balcony, waves feverishly in appreciation of their support, and struts purposefully around his band mates. One by one, he sides up to them and plants a huge kiss on their cheek to thank them for their efforts. As I said, it's hard not to like Lenny Kravitz.