With more than three years between studio projects and at least that long since he last stepped foot in Chicago, it remained to be seen to what extent Lenny Kravitz would deliver during his first ever appearance at Ravinia. However, no sooner than the first minute of the slowly marinating groove “Frankenstein,” it was apparent the audience better buckle up because the ride for nearly the next two hours would be nothing short of a figurative fireworks display.
Kravitz continued firing at full tilt come the gospel-soaked “Let Love Rule,” which included a leap into the crowd, loop all the way out to the lawn and a stop atop a lucky concertgoers’ chair. Upon his return to the stage, the monstrous “Fly Away” kicked up the intensity yet another notch before “Are You Gonna Go My Way” capped off the show with sheer guitar-charged pandemonium…
“I know I’ve been gone quite some time, but thank you for welcoming us back in such a beautiful way this evening,” the headliner told the packed lawn and completely sold out pavilion. And outside of that sole new tune from his tenth long player “Strut,” the always fashionable 51-year-old (who still has the body of an underwear model, at least according to the tour merchandise) rewarded faithful for their patience with a hearty stable of ageless hits and equally durable album cuts.In addition to Kravitz’s unmistakable vocals, six-string skills and charismatic swagger, almost as much credit goes to his four piece core band, three horns and trio of background goddesses, all of whom turned everything from The Guess Who’s “American Woman” to his own “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over” and “Dancin’ ‘Til Dawn” into pure rock n’ soul gold. “Believe” was also a front half highlight, not only conveying one of the night’s many life-affirming messages, but also demonstrating the leader’s ability to merge the current with the classic via its Led Zeppelin-esque riffs.
By “Always On The Run,” Kravitz leaned closer to the altar of James Brown or the following generation’s Parliament-Funkadelic, perhaps taking cues from the latter after giving everyone the chance to solo at lengthy intervals. Though it’s understandable why he wanted to show off such extraordinary players as bassist Gail Ann Dorsey (a veteran of David Bowie’s band) and longtime drummer Cindy Blackman (now married to Carlos Santana), carrying on for practically 20 minutes was downright excessive, especially considering smashes “Rock & Roll Is Dead” and “Again” were all together absent.
Nonetheless, Kravitz continued firing at full tilt come the gospel-soaked “Let Love Rule,” which included a leap into the crowd, loop all the way out to the lawn and a stop atop a lucky concertgoers’ chair. Upon his return to the stage, the monstrous “Fly Away” kicked up the intensity yet another notch before “Are You Gonna Go My Way” capped off the show with sheer guitar-charged pandemonium worthy of putting its creator amongst the greatest players and all around artists of the last 25 years.
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia Festival include the Sinatra Centennial starring Frank Sinatra Jr. and Ravinia Festival Orchestra on Friday, September 4; Jackson Browne on Saturday, September 5; O.A.R. on Sunday, September 6; Gladys Knight & The O’Jays on Friday, September 11 and Classic Albums Live performs “Led Zeppelin II” on Saturday, September 12. For additional details, visit www.ravinia.org.