What a busy Sunday in Downtown Minneapolis. With the Vikings kicking off their 2019 season with an impressive win over the Falcons at US Bank Stadium (with The Revolution performing at half time) and the Twins dropping an important game to Cleveland at Target Field earlier in the day, the afternoon was filled with Minnesota sports fans. As day turned to night, the Minneapolis concert scene took over with a full slate of Sunday night shows. Social Distortion was at the Armory, Matthew Sweet at the Fine Line, and Adam Ant just a block away on Hennepin at the Pantages Theatre. However, the hottest ticket in town was for the quickly sold-out Lenny Kravitz show at the Orpheum Theatre.
With no opening act, lines of worried fans were slowly admitted into the historic theatre as the schedule 7:30 pm showtime approached. No worries, as the show started fashionably late, closer to 8pm, allowing everyone to get to their seats. But who needed seats with everyone up as the stage turned dark, and a spotlight revealed Kravitz standing atop a platform in the back of the stage. Wearing a brown leather jacket and sunglasses he would wear most of the night, he opened with “We Can Get It All Together”, from his new album, Raise Vibration. Songs tonight would include four top tracks from this recent release, but would also span the 30 years he’s been recording music. He wasted no time in getting to one of his most popular songs, 1998’s “Fly Away”, which really kicked the show into gear and got the festive crowd singing and dancing.
Kravitz stepped down the stairs to the center of the main stage, where he would spend most of the rest of the show. The audience was mostly in their forties and fifties, and felt out of shape after seeing the ultra-fit 55-year-old up close. I’m not sure how he does it, but the 55-year-old Kravitz still looks like he’s in his thirties. And while his sunglasses were square, he’s certainly not. He’s just one of those guys who oozes with coolness. After playing “Dig In” at center-stage, Kravitz began clapping above his head until the crowd followed suit, then launched into the universally popular, “American Woman”. His special version of The Guess Who’s song was, of course, featured in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Soon Kravitz was trading verses with the crowd by saying, “You’re no good for me”, to which they would return, “I’m no good for you” and at the end of the song, it slowed to a reggae pace, blending the song with some instrumental inklings of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ “Get Up, Stand Up.” A horn section, comprised of a tenor sax, baritone sax, and trumpet, paraded out on the stage behind the singer, and would accompany the band on many of the remaining songs.
At this first break, the crowd gave an extremely loud and sustained ovation, to which Kravitz held his hand over his heart and was clearly appreciative. Speaking to the crowd for the first time tonight, he said, “First of all, I must thank God for another day of life. And I hope you are all with me on that….. We each have different lives and each have our own challenges. It’s one more day to love. One more day to get closer to our destiny.” He continued, “It’s a great honor to be back in this city. I’m grateful that you would come to see us. Especially, since you are in the city where you saw the greatest who ever did it. We are humbled that after seeing that, you came to see us.” Kravitz was a close friend of Prince, often invited to Paisley Park to hang out, collaborate on music, or just play stuff for fun. He appeared emotional as this was the first time he was back in Minneapolis since his friend’s death.
After asking the crowd’s permission and then taking them to the “Fields of Joy”, with its flute sounds and building guitars, Kravitz asked the crowd to come dance on the “Freedom Train”, as he gyrated and grinded with his guitar slung over his back. During his energetic new song, “Who Really Are the Monsters?”, he used a megaphone, and later on, the multi-instrumentalist played a mini-drum set and tiny cymbal mid song before it was close out by a sultry tenor sax solo. Roaring applause finally quieted to allow him to play the ballad, “Stillness of Heart”. Next, fans instantly sang along to “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over”, as it started slow before turning into the popular disco-esque song from his second album. Kravitz sat down at the edge of the stage to add vocalizations to the three horns instrumental segue, until relinquishing to a long, intense tenor sax solo. Continuing with variety, Kravitz grabbed an acoustic guitar and began by snapping his fingers to begin “Can’t Get You Off My Mind”.
Like in the music video for “Low”, the stage turned dark and the drummer (Kravitz in the video) opened under the spotlight. Soon, the R&B sound had women dancing with their hands above their head. After bassist, Gail Ann Dorsey, was featured on “I Belong To You”, Kravitz pointed to the sky emotionally and again covered his heart. In a cute moment, he asked a front row fan to hold his guitar until he could clear his thoughts. But a worried guitar tech quickly grabbed it back. A loud chant of “Lenny, Lenny” started and Kravitz could only applaud back to the crowd. When a fan gave Kravitz a black t-shirt with a purple Prince symbol, he immediately decided to hang it on the front of the bass drum. It was proudly displayed there for the rest of the show. After introducing the entire band, the trio of Dorsey, Kravitz, and long time guitarist, Craig Ross ( with his Carrot Top hair) aligned more tightly for the next few songs, “Mr. Cab Driver” and “Bank Robber Man”, with flashing police lights and sirens.
During “Where Are We Runnin’?”, Kravitz danced wildly and encouraged those in the Orpheum’s balcony to do likewise. Then our amazing tenor saxophonist was at it again, but from up on the perch Kravitz had started the show from. It was finally time for the massive hit written by Kravitz and Ross, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. The co-writer of this chart-topper was featured heavily on guitar while fans soaked in the opportunity to experience this live. As the crowd roared, Kravitz pointed to each of his band members one more time, sang a shortened version of “Love Revolution”, then vacated the stage to continuous applause.
With the applause turning again to chants of “Lenny, Lenny”, the silhouette of Kravitz was visible in front of bright lights, again atop the rear platform. Accompanied only by keyboards, he sang the ballad that came to him in a dream, “Here to Love”. Several choir members appearing to each side to close it out in grand style. The theme of the night was love, and the final song of the night was the song that started it all for Kravitz, his first-ever single. He said, “Minneapolis, we’ve got to “Let Love Rule”” during this extended version, after getting the crowd singing along. He emphasized how important unity is and asked us to grab the hand of the person next to us and hold it up. With the crowd keeping the singing going, he said to keep it going as he was coming out there. And he did, making his way down one of aisles to the back of the theatre, with microphone in hand, then up in the balcony before winding all the way back to the stage using the other side aisle to get close to as many as possible. Minneapolis certainly loved Lenny Kravitz and the feeling appeared mutual. I’m feeling the love, now I’m hoping just a little bit of his coolness rubbed off on me too.
We Can Get It All Together / Fly Away / Dig In / American Woman / Fields of Joy / Freedom Train / Who Really Are The Monsters? / Stillness of Heart / It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over / Can’t Get You Off My Mind / Low / I Belong To You / Mr. Cab Driver / Bank Robber Man / Where Are We Runnin’? / Are You Gonna Go My Way / Love Revolution.
Encore: Here to Love / Let Love Rule