Kravitz’ rock vision is undiminished
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.