Lenny Kravitz, Wembley Arena

Still enjoying himself - and when he keeps it short, so is the audience
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The Independent Culture

His baptism tour may be named after this year's album, but Lenny Kravitz's only UK date was more of a greatest hits package.

His baptism tour may be named after this year's album, but Lenny Kravitz's only UK date was more of a greatest hits package.

Once a hippy rocker preserved in aspic, Kravitz is turning 40 with all the uncertainty of your average middle-aged male. Baptism the album is his limpest offering in several years. The trademark classic rock riffs lack the zip of previous albums, while his lyrics verge on the objectionable.

In the past his songs were too bland to cause offence, but now Kravitz claims he wants to lose the trappings of stardom, while singing about getting high with Jagger. Elsewhere, he muses that he might be better off settling down and living off the land.

Maybe these sentiments encouraged his audience to bus in from across the country. As mild-mannered a bunch as you would ever see at a rock gig, with only the occasional dreadlock missing the essential safeness of Kravitz's retro stylings. Kravitz opened with "Where Are We Running?", one of the few stompers on his new album, but no equal to "Are You Gonna Go My Way". Its riff was a tired blues-rock retread, saved only by the gospel punch of his three backing singers and a tight trio on horns. Kravitz himself refused to look his age, dressed in a fishnet vest, a brown tea cosy for a hat and his shades.

He played one more track from Baptism , the current single "California". Here Kravitz displayed a rare light touch on a tune where he gave Beach Boys' surf-pop a metallic edge. He reminisced about growing up in the "Golden State", where skate kids introduced him to The Who, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. His great strength over the years has been to combine such influences with a smattering of soul and funk. He is no Prince, but Kravitz has always come up with a hit when he needed one.

"Always On The Run" reminded us he could lay down a guitar figure of monstrous proportions, until he swapped instruments with his bassist. The instrument promptly broke down, causing Kravitz to lead a clap-along on only the second song of the set. It staved off for a few moments a 10-minute series of instrumentals by each band member.

More palatable was his fine Philly-soul pastiche "It Ain't Over Til It's Over". Then Kravitz got behind the drum kit for another set of interminable jazz-funk jams. The singers disappeared, probably heading for the bar. Then the drummer took over for his own solo.

Kravitz was doing his best to spoil a reasonable roster of tunes. A rousing, and to the point, "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" showed his skill at copying old sounds, better than most lame tribute bands.

On current form, Kravitz should think twice about releasing another album if he wants his dignity intact, but he is enjoying himself on tour. So can his audience, when he keeps things short.

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