Lenny Kravitz's body of work is peppered with spiritual, socially conscious and politically aware themes - many of his soulful rock songs implore us to change the world, or ourselves. But no one goes to his shows to ponder the universe and its injustices - people just want to let loose, let their hair down and, of course, let love rule.
And Kravitz is more than happy to oblige. Born into show business (his mother played Helen Willis on "The Jeffersons" and his TV producer and jazz-promoter father had his friend Duke Ellington play "Happy Birthday" for young Lenny), he's a natural onstage, with his "rock star" persona effortlessly oozing from his pores, seemingly flowing through his soul.
On Saturday night at the Fillmore Miami Beach, Kravitz - backed by a killer band featuring a three-piece horn section - thrilled the standing-room-only crowd with a flashy, powerful tour through his two-decades-plus career, featuring most of his beloved standards and several instant classics from his critically acclaimed ninth album, "Black and White America." It was a smart mix of old and new, with ballads happily coexisting with balls-out rockers, equal parts sentimental and cathartic.
It's rare that new material is as well-received in concert as the favorites, but Kravitz proved to be an exception. The opening song, the muscular, bluesy, bass-heavy "Come On Get It"; the authentic old-school funk of "Black and White America" - whose lyrics expressing Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision were especially inspirational when combined with photos from Kravitz's biracial upbringing - and the tender, acoustic "Push," which kicked off the night's encore, were all embraced and cheered by the crowd as if they were familiar radio staples.
In between, Kravitz absolutely rocked his tried-and-true songs, with strong guitar work on his thunderous cover of The Guess Who's "American Woman," the Stevie Wonder-like rhythm of "Always on the Run," the psychedelic "Fields of Joy" and the singalong hit "Fly Away." He also charmed the crowd, exclaiming "Miami, I'm back home!" before launching into his silky hit "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over"; asking "You're not in a rush, are you?" as he let a soft, jazzy trumpet-driven moment marinate for several minutes at the end of "Mr. Cab Driver"; crooning his heartfelt, Prince-like ballad, "Stand By My Woman"; and dishing out a faithful, extended version of the smooth Lennon-esque jam, "Let Love Rule" at the end.
But as consistently high as the energy level was throughout the show, it tripled during Kravitz's final song before the encore, "Are You Gonna Go My Way," for which he strapped on his trademark Gibson Flying V. That song's delirious guitar riff, coupled with Kravitz convulsing like he was possessed by the music, caused a mass frenzy inside the Fillmore, with every hand thrusting upward, as if searching for rock 'n' roll salvation.
Photo: Tomas Loewy