A warm summer’s eve, chatter bubbling through the queue outside Manchester’s O2 Apollo and the side street packed with tour buses; it was the perfect, exciting start to an evening with Lenny Kravitz. The sloping venue floor was surprisingly empty when I arrived – I did wonder whether Foo Fighters playing across town may have poached most of Kravitz’s fans, I was later proved very wrong.
Support act Curtis Harding spent his set awash with blue light, contributing to the mellow style of his playing. “On and On” and “Need Your Love” are the key features of his setlist, I was completely drawn in by Harding’s voice and for once I quite enjoyed the low-key approach to a support slot. After all, you can’t contend with Kravitz in terms of funk or rock and roll, so why not try the calm, soulful approach?
There was such a huge sense of anticipation for Lenny Kravitz as the covers were removed from his band’s instruments and seeing the enormous curtain lifted to reveal ceiling-high reflective panels and a catwalk. I could see his silhouette as he walked to the centre of the platform just before every conceivable light came on and he started playing “Fly Away”. For “Dig In”, Kravitz came to the front of the stage where he stayed until the encore (feat. “Let Love Rule” and “Are You Gonna Go My Way”). A personal highlight was the introduction of phenomenal bassist Gail Ann Dorsey for whom the cheers were deafening, even before Lenny had finished talking.
A firm favourite of mine was “American Woman”, watching Lenny groove on stage and the crowd responding in kind. Mid-way through the gig, at the close of “The Chamber”, Kravitz and guitarist Craig Ross played a particularly funky riff to rapturous applause. Occasionally, between songs Kravitz would lift his shades and take a long look at the audience, as well as patrolling the stage, at one point being handed a child and briefly dancing and high-fiving with them. One real drawback at the gig, as with most gigs nowadays, was the constant sea of phones filming and taking pictures. Not being that tall myself, this often blocks out my view which can get very frustrating, and I know I wasn’t the only one bothered by this.
That said, there was such a party atmosphere in the crowd, and there was a rare buzz about having such an icon in the room. Kravitz has the draw of a bye-gone era, from when such talent was revered as being a “Rock God”, with such a class and gravitas that is missing today.