Sunday, June 26, 2005


Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Mwanji, what are you doing, paying 56 euros (twice!) to see Lenny Kravitz, when you wouldn't even pay half that (once!) to see Sonny Rollins?" That's a good question. First of all, we didn't just see Lenny. We also saw Duran Duran. Secondly, we didn't pay, the tickets luckily fell into our laps when a friend couldn't go. So I popped my rock festival cherry for free with the TW Classic, in Werchter (rural Flanders; the main event is next week).

I'd never been to a big rock concert before. The kind with video screens (which, during Duran Duran, were lagging disturbingly behind the live action) so that you get to see more than inch-high stick figures. The kind in a big field, ringed by car manufacturers, banks, mobile network operators, magazines and food stands. The kind where it takes you half an hour to walk from the grassy parking lot.

Of course, Duran and Lenny weren't the only people on the bill. I would've like to have seen Novastar (Belgian piano rock songwriter) or Brian Wilson. But we found out that the tickets were ours fairly late in the day. So Duran and Lenny had to do.

Kravitz played what you'd expect him to play: new stuff like "Where Are We Runnin'?" and "Lady" (a poppier thing that's nowhere as good as the D'Angelo song of the same name), old stuff like "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" and "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" (as a second encore. IVN had lost hope, but I knew it was coming: AYGGMW is to Lenny what "Take Five" is to Brubeck.) and middle-aged stuff like "American Woman" and a very good "Fly Away" that closed the set before the encores. But I was disappointed by the way the songs were played. Impeccably, yes, it all sounded exactly like the recorded versions (which, in terms of singing, is more than many can say, but still). I was expecting more fire, more looseness, more eruptions. They came, inevitably, with AYGGMW, "Fly Away" extended itself to burst with life, but overall to many songs came and went without really affirming their reason for being outside of "Well, I've recorded these songs before, so I might as well play them."

Kravitz looked as you'd expect him to look: sunglasses at night, strategically removed to generate shrieks; nipple rings, revealed at the end when he ripped open his shirt; sexy (although IVN doesn't think so. I think she's wrong); rock star poses (a bit disappointing, though, because they struck me as having a forced stiffness, an odd combination, to say the least) that screamed "praise me!" He made declarations that seemed generous but were actually about himself: "It's an honour to play on this stage that has been blessed by Duran Duran, true living legends." Just like you, Lenny! "We're here for one reason and one reason only: to celebrate the greatest blessing of all: the blessing of life! Can you get with that, people?" Um, no, not really.

Kravitz brought who you'd expect him to bring: "the supergenius" second guitarist, with whom Lenny gracefully shared solos; Cindy Blackman [always a fun jazz trainspotter's moment. She may not be in the pantheon, but who wants to see John Coltrane in a bikini? Her solo may have been disappointingly senseless pounding, but she looked great in her black bikini with pearl beads hanging from it, long curly hair in a made-to-head-bang afro and amazing arms. "Does anyone want to come up here and keep Cindy warm?" Lenny asked. I'll let you guess as to the number of volunteers.]; three backup singers, one of whom was Isaac Hayes (you can see him for yourself in the photo), and a horn section, both of which brought the necessary soul/funk inflections. Okay, so Hayes wasn't singing backup, it was just someone who looked exactly like him.

So, what did we learn last night? Lenny probably said it best: "I love you all, but God loves you even more."