Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 17, 2015
"Free At Last." Those words are tattooed on Lenny Kravitz's right forearm. Whatever was holding the 50-year-old rocker (what?!) prisoner seems to be long gone. On a breezy and pleasant late summer night in The Woodlands, Kravitz used his music as a vehicle towards continued freedom, both therapeutic and spiritual, accepting everyone in the audience as eager devotees.
The perfect combination of rock star, mysterious drifter, and sex symbol, Kravitz is the epitome of cool wrapped in boatloads of talent. I'd dare say that he is one of the best rock guitarist of our generation, along with his friend and colleague Saul "Slash" Hudson of Guns N' Roses fame. Both products of bi-racial families, the musicians have been providing music fans with hard-hitting guitar riffs for more than 25 years.
The night began with the bluesy, funky "Frankenstein (I Need Love)," which quickly led to the complete hypnotization of the crowd. Everyone stood up, danced, and applauded in sync to the rhythm of Lenny's notes, words, and hip-shaking moves. "Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for being here!" he shouted in appreciation. Apparently he has been living and touring overseas for an extended period of time, and it felt great to be back home in the USA. He then unleashed "American Woman," one of his more recognizable and beloved hits.
As the night progressed, what I wasn't prepared for was the wide musical spectrum that Kravitz holds in his arsenal. I've always known him as a rocker and a love-ballad guy, but with an awesome group of musicians backing him, he provided a night of funk, jazz, and soul to complement his sound. I even heard shades of Santana-esque blues/rock with a Latin twist, thanks to the expert backline of a man named George Laks on the organ and the one and only Cindy Blackman-Santana on the drums. Add a brilliant horn section, bassist, backup singers, and absolutely killer lead guitarist named Craig (who looked like a character straight out of a Guitar Hero video game), and this was surprisingly the best and most musically diverse band I've seen all year.
"Let's take it back to 1991!" proclaimed Lenny as he delved into "It Ain't Over Til It's Over," an almost absolutely perfect love song. The set list itself was only about 10 songs deep, but that included a lengthy jam and solo session during "Dancin' Til Dawn", his several interactions with the front row as he danced and rolled on the floor, and his walking through the crowd near the end of the show. The way he moved seemed to be possessed by the beats and rhythms of the songs. Its always so refreshing to see an artist having that much fun during his show, truly loving the music and wanting the audience to share in the experience.
As I alternated between looking at the stage and the two big screens flanking it, I kept daydreaming about who Kravitz most resembled in the music world. I ended my speculation by determining him to be the love child of Stevie Wonder and Steven Tyler. As funny as that sounds, its kinda perfect.
"I'm enjoying myself here, so I'm just taking my time" he assured the crowd as he took a breather and basked in the applause. And then, as if he hadn't already won the crowd over he said this:
"I love Texas man! And I mean, Dallas was cool, but y'all kicked their ass! Houston has so much flavor, so much gravy!"
Aw, shucks Lenny. We love you too!
Personal Bias: I'm fairly certain Lenny's "It Ain't Over Til It's Over" was on the stereo the first time I, well, you know...
The Crowd: Smaller and older than I'm used to seeing at The Woodlands, which actually made the show supremely pleasant. Everyone was there ready to jam!
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Overheard In the Crowd: "The marquee should read 'Lenny Kravitz & His Band' because they are just so amazing!" — my younger brother Angel, who accompanied me to the show
Random Notebook Dump: Lenny took swigs of San Pellegrino sparkling water while onstage. Can somebody get this man a Topo Chico next time, please!
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over
Dancin' Til Dawn
Always on the Run
I Belong to You
Let Love Rule
Are You Gonna Go My Way
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston Music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.