Words By: Gerrod Harris
With the World Cup Of Hockey taking place at the ACC, ScotiaBank put up a stage on the outskirts of the Distillery District which earlier hosted The Killers. Originally scheduled for last night was Green Day, who had to cancel- along with two other dates of their club oriented tour in support of their upcoming album Revolution Radio. It wasn’t until Tuesday that a replacement was officially announced: the one and only Lenny Kravitz!
Kravitz has been currently busy touring around the world, working on Better Things TV Series, and recording his next album. Despite his extensive touring, the rock ‘n’ roll legend has not been in Toronto in roughly two years, making the occasion that much more special. Kravitz, of course, sounded amazing. From his raspy belts of “American Woman” to his smooth falsetto on “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”, the singer’s voice was in flawless form. Throughout most of the show, he also played guitar, making it all that much more exciting to watch him balance intricate licks and highly rhythmic riffs while singing in such an impressive manner. It goes without saying then that his band was beyond tight. Everything they played grooved so hard. The band included long time guitarist Brother Craig Ross, drummer Brother Franklin Vanderbilt, and bassist Queen Gail Ann Dorsey, who worked with David Bowie throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s. The band also included the three Goddesses, who provided the most amazing harmonies while also dancing through the whole show, a keyboard player, and a three member horn section consisting of a trumpet and two sax players.
The frequent addition of horns, keys, and backing vocals allowed for some of Kravitz’ most classic work to come to life, while also pumping new life into adventurous renditions which encouraged structured improvisation. While songs of the first half of the show, including the opener “Bring It On”, “Where Are We Runnin’?”, and “Believe” were performed very closely to what can be heard on record, the latter half of his performance turned hits like “Always On The Run” and “Let Love Rule” into twenty minute epics! It’s not good enough that “Always On The Run” features one of the best riffs to emerge from the 1990’s, so Kravitz included a highly extended guitar solo for Ross to truly showcase all his chops. This led into a funky and jazzy vamp where an incredible trumpet and keyboard solo were delivered, all the while Dorsey and Vanderbilt locked into a groove which seamlessly shifted tones numerous times, finally resulting in an even funkier rendition of the song’s final verse before the band exploded into a crunching hard rock ending. This was followed by “Let Love Rule”, performed at first as a ballad as it normally is but would transform into a much more upbeat gospel inspired track that had the audience singing along. Kravitz chose to conclude his set with “Are You Gonna Go My Way”, again greatly extended Ross’ solo section, giving the song an even bigger punch than it normally would have.
While often forgotten- and mistakenly so- about in regards to these kinds of lists and whatnot, Lenny Kravitz has been, and still is, one of the greatest rock stars around. To add to that, I would claim that he is one of the few musicians who has managed to stay relevant in his near thirty year career, throughout today’s rapidly shifting musical culture, remaining as strong, if not stronger, than in his youth. His set in Toronto was proof of just that. His talent is unbelievable and to watch him turn some of his classic material into lengthy adventures which break all stylistic expectations is nothing short of amazing. Not to mention, the man oozes coolness, charisma, and persona. Everything he does, everything about this performance, was unabashedly Lenny Kravitz. It was as glamorous as it was soulful, funky as it was rock ‘n’ roll. Kravitz is among rock’s must see acts and is an artist who I cannot praise or recommend enough. What a spectacular show.
Lenny Kravitz’ Setlist:
1: Bring It On
2: Where Are We Runnin’?
3: American Woman
4: It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over
6: Always On The Run
7: Let Love Rule
8: Fly Away
9: Are You Gonna Go My Way