Lenny Kravitz, Wembley Arena, London

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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 hippie rocker preserved in aspic, Kravitz is turning 40 with all the uncertainty of your average middle-aged male. Baptism is his limpest offer 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 account for the audience which was as mild-mannered a bunch as you'll ever see at a rock gig, with only the occasional dreadlock. Kravitz opened with "Where Are We Running?", one of the few stompers on his new album. 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 played one more track from Baptism - the current single "California". Here he displayed a rare light touch on a tune where he gave Beach Boys surf pop a metallic edge.

Kravitz's great strengths over the years have been to combine such influences with a smattering of soul and funk. He is no Prince, but he 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 and had the effect of staving 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". Kravitz painfully wants to be meaningful, but cannot get beyond dedicating a song to the "victims of terror, war and all that bullshit''. The song "Fear" does bring alive The Average White Band covering Sly and the Family Stone... until 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. On current form, he should think twice about releasing another album if he wants his dignity to remain intact, but he's enjoying himself on tour. So can his audience, when he keeps things short.

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