Gig Reviews

Lenny Kravitz & Raphael Saadiq, London Hammersmith Apollo – 27/10/2011

It started out as one of those nights. One of those nights where you really wish you didn’t miss most of the support act and one of those nights where you wish even harder that you checked that the ticket you bought off eBay didn’t have ‘Restricted’ written on it next to where it said ‘standing’. Still, the night ended sitting up top of the railings at the back of the theatre, with scores of sweaty, excited others, watching rock legend Lenny Kravitz literally working the top tier with everyone in the crowd wishing they were nowhere else but in the presence of this ecletic, eletric, underrated rock god.

Last night in London, the two best rock/soul guitarists alive today showed that they really are two of the best live performers around. If you’re familiar here, you’ll know from previous posts that no one puts on a show like Raphael Saadiq (that was until tonight), and the revolutionary, renaissance man got his Sam Cooke on and got the crowd going in support with his Instant Vintage. Working through the solo, Lucy Pearl and Tony! Toni! Toné! discography’s, Raphael did more than warm the crowd up. The music got so damn hot that clothes were a bad choice. The ladies loved this as Ray Ray was down to his vest before he even made it halfway through his set-list. From 100 Yard Dash to the new Stone Rollin‘ classics, Motown and Rock & Roll was alive and awoken like the audience. This sweat-stained Apollo marked another incredible, inspiring performance from a man who could have played all night for this sold-out crowd. Catch him live when you can, he’s just the ticket.

If the crowd wasn’t amped enough and the Apollo hot enough, then things really turned up a notch when the amps came out for Lenny. As he strolled out with a cool swagger between two massive triangular, electronic stage pieces, he broke into the opening track off his new album Black & White America and NBA Basketball promotions; Come On & Get It. From the first scream to the last drum-roll, everyone was right in it; fans or not, nobody was left behind now. Then Mr. Kravitz didn’t let up, performing choice tracks off his new album and his classic catalogue. A collection that goes back a lot further then what people actually realise. When he performed American Woman and It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, all sorts of ‘Oh Yeah’s’ were screamed. Kravitz kept it cool as Cherry-Aid however, confident but humbled. Thanking the crowd and the city of London for giving him his first real break (his record company sent him here 20 years ago, when they didn’t know what to do with him).

From kaleidoscopic visuals to family photos telling the back story of his life to the title track of his new album, the hi-def, most def video screen kept everyone involved as Lenny got real personal and giving with the crowd even when his trademark shades were kept on. When he took them off, the crowd went wild, like they did for sentimental classics like the sensational and sublime Stand By My Woman and the inspiring and influential Believe with all its lavishing licks and real riffs. More immeasurable, inspiring classics were dropped from the introspective, racist-bashing ‘Mr. Cab Driver’s’, to the ‘Mama Said’s’ of Always On The Run and Where Are We Running (a song off the album Baptism, a CD that’s sessions spurned Lenny’s latest). Speaking of his new album, fresh and formidable tracks like Rock Star City Life, Stand and Looking Back On Love were treated like old classics, as they gave a fond familiar feel.

Lenny closed the first part of the show off brilliantly with the iconic Fly Away and Are You Gonna Go My Way hits. Now there’s no better way to hear these rock classics like how they were intended … live and loud. You wouldn’t think much would top such an incredible moment until he came back for his encore. After an awe-inspiring, in-audience acoustic performance of the heart filled I Belong To You, Kravitz then introduced his brilliant band before performing what all the die-hards had been waiting for. As Kravitz Let Love Rule, he kept the chant of this iconic, inspiring classic and incredible statement going for 20 straight, solid, beautiful minutes as he greeted and hugged nearly everyone in the crowd, making his way to the top tiers and showing us it was all love for all comers. Those who caught a glimpse in the tip-toed, standing and swaying crowd got what they wanted, nobody took their seats for this stand-up guy. This man bore all his heart and soul last night that you couldn’t ask for more. As last night in London came to an end, love and Lenny ruled and reigned supreme.

Tim Harvey is a Music Feeds UK correspondent

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