Kravitz’ rock vi­sion is undi­min­ished

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music - By Mark Jor­dan

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

In a hi­lar­i­ous video posted to his Twit­ter ac­count ear­lier this week, Lenny Kravitz ex­pe­ri­enced his own Spinal Tap mo­ment. The 45-year-old rocker was play­ing the Bor­gata casino in At­lantic City last week­end when he got lost on the way to the stage.

An iPhone video shot by a mem­ber of Kravitz’s en­tourage shows the singer wan­der­ing the el­e­va­tors, hall­ways and lob­bies of the Bor­gata, paus­ing only briefly to take pho­tos with fans, as he tries to find the venue where he’s sup­posed to play.

“Some­how I’m not with my tour man­ager and I don’t know where I’m go­ing,” Kravitz says in the video. “I’m just gonna stand here un­til some­one fig­ures out that I need to be on stage.”

Even­tu­ally a se­cu­rity guard es­corted the cha­grined Kravitz to the venue where he started his show an hour late and clearly em­bar­rassed.

“When you get home or on your phone, you can watch it on Twit­ter, cause my (butt) got lost from the room to the stage,” Kravitz tells the crowd. “No­body came to get me.”

Snarkier ob­servers might quip that Kravitz has been lost, at least ar­tis­ti­cally, for some time, but that wouldn’t re­ally be fair or ac­cu­rate. Though he hasn’t been the com­mer­cial force he once was for some time, Kravitz con­tin­ues to pro­duce rel­e­vant and in­ter­est­ing al­bums.

His most re­cent, last year’s It Is Time For A Love Revo­lu­tion , was one of his best-re­ceived and most ac­com­plished ef­forts in years. Full of hip­pie-dippy ti­tles like “Love Revo­lu­tion” and “Love, Love, Love,” the record packed a hard Led Zep­pelin-in­spired sonic punch that be­lied its gen­tle Utopian themes.

That al­bum also started Kravitz on a path back to his roots, a jour­ney that has come full cir­cle this year with a mam­moth world­wide tour that marks the 20th an­niver­sary of his de­but al­bum, Let Love Rule. The 50-date tour took in Europe, and a U.S. swing that in­cludes a show Hal­loween night at Har­rah’s Tu­nica. (The show was orig­i­nally sched­uled for Oct. 30, but was moved back a day as man­age­ment reshuf­fled the tour to al­low Kravitz time to re­cover from a bout of bron­chi­tis. Un­for­tu­nately, orig­i­nally sched­uled opener K’Naan, a So­mali rap­per who was the break­out star at this year’s South By South­west mu­sic con­fer­ence, had to pull out of the resched­uled date.)

Twenty years ago, not many peo­ple knew what to make of Kravitz. It was, in some re­spects, a wa­ter­shed year for African-Amer­i­can cul­ture. “The Cosby Show” (star­ring Kravitz’s then-wife, Lisa Bonet) was the No. 1 tele­vi­sion show, and acts like De La Soul and Pub­lic En­emy were break­ing rap out to wider audiences.

But no­body ex­pected or was looking for a resur­gence in African-Amer­i­can rock mu­sic, a strand left dan­gling fol­low­ing the death of Jimi Hen­drix and the self-im­posed ex­ile of Sly Stone al­most two decades ear­lier. That year saw the rise of two African-Amer­i­can acts that un­apolo­get­i­cally re-em­braced rock ’n’ roll — the band Liv­ing Colour and, re­leas­ing his de­but in the fall of 1989, Kravitz.

Of the two, Kravitz was un­doubt­edly the most back­ward looking. From the open­ing notes of the lead-off ti­tle sin­gle, you could hear the in­flu­ences — Bea­tles har­monies, Sly Stone cho­ruses, touches of the Stones and Hen­drix with a lit­tle bit of Prince to make things more mod­ern. It may have been de­riv­a­tive, but it was au­da­ciously and com­pre­hen­sively so.

In the two decades hence, Kravitz’s retro style frayed lis­ten­ers and crit­ics, and the hits — “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” “Al­ways On the Run,” “Amer­i­can Woman”— slowed to a trickle. But in re­cent years, as acts like the White Stripes and Kings of Leon have made the charts safe again for bare, gui­tar-drenched rock, Kravitz has seemed like a stan­dard-bearer.

Ear­lier this year, Kravitz reis­sued Let Love Rule with un­re­leased demos, B-sides and live record­ings added, and the ti­tle track was re­cently given the deluxe remix treat­ment by ac­claimed French duo Jus­tice. But just as at­ten­tion is reach­ing a fever pitch for the an­niver­sary and for Kravitz’s resur­gent ca­reer, his at­ten­tion has be­gun to wan­der, as he told Rolling Stone re­cently that he’d love to back up the White Stripes’ Jack White in a band.

“One thing I haven’t done that I want to do is, for in­stance, go be the drum­mer in a band,” he said. “I’d like to work with some other great mu­si­cians and I’ll ei­ther play bass or play drums or what­ever, and col­lab­o­rate with some peo­ple like that.”

With a tour mark­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of his first al­bum, Lenny Kravitz is back to his gui­tar-drenched rock roots.

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