Overindulgent Lenny Kravitz Still Delights

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 4, 1996

Unlike some of his critics, Lenny Kravitz doesn’t view it as a problem that some of his music is reminiscent of songs by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson or Led Zeppelin.  Rather, the sinewy musician flicks away any comparisons – good or bad – as easily as he tosses aside his long dreadlocks and keeps writing  songs with strong backbeats and deliciously catchy pop hooks.

At Kravitz’s sold-out show Friday night at the Aragon Ballroom, the singer-guitarist gave an entertaining performance that heated things up for the chilled fans who braved subzero weather to get to the Aragon.  But while he is to be commended for adding different elements to his show, not all of them – such as an extended  semi-“unplugged” jam session midway through the set – worked. Even some of the more diehard fans lost interest during the musical noodling that thankfully came to an end with Cindy Blackman’s powerful drum solo.

He fared much better with his four-minute rock songs, which are comforting in their familiarity.  Sure, “Can’t Get You Off My Mind” has an intro that rings of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” but then Kravitz gently adds nuances that make the lyrics (“I’m old enough to see behind me; But young enough to feel my soul”) stay with you long after the song’s over.

Touring to promote his fourth CD “Circus,” Kravitz was backed by an ace six-piece band that included two horn players and an organist and Slash hair-alike Craig Ross on guitars.  The stage setup reflected the spiritually-influenced songs on “Circus.”  Surrounded by candles and incense, Kravitz was preaching rock ‘n’ roll to eager disciples.

Dressed in skin-tight brown slacks and a leather jacket, Kravitz was dressed to thrill and had the moves to back the sexy growls he added to “Mama Said.”  He ought to patent his crouch-and-shake move.

A ladies man, Kravitz ironically lost two of the most important woman in his life.  His 1991 divorce from actress Lisa Bonet provided painful fodder for his second album “Mama Said,” and his mother, actress Roxie Roker, recently died after a bout with cancer.  Now, the only significant “woman” is his daughter Zoe, who he says is a constant inspiration for his music.

The Chicago-based Triple Fast Action opened the show with a powerful 40-minute set that showed much promise for the baby band.

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