Retro rockers Lenny Kravitz and the Black Crowes proved a logical and successful pairing that had the somewhat dubious honor of being the first out of the gate among this year's summer shed tours. The chilly light rain, however, that began to fall during the Crowes' "Wiser Time" should serve to remind organizers that April is indeed not summer, even in Southern California.

Retro rockers Lenny Kravitz and the Black Crowes proved a logical and successful pairing that had the somewhat dubious honor of being the first out of the gate among this year’s summer shed tours. The chilly light rain, however, that began to fall during the Crowes’ “Wiser Time” should serve to remind organizers that April is indeed not summer, even in Southern California.

Crowes frontman Chris Robinson continues to render his hip-swaggering impression of Faces-era Rod Stewart better than the latter can, prancing and twirling among his rough ‘n’ ready bandmates through several numbers from their latest release, “By Your Side” (Columbia). An attempt to return to the multiplatinum success of the bluesy rock ‘n’ roll of their debut, 1990′s “Shake Your Moneymaker,” the overdrive of “Stop Kicking My Heart Around” and the heavy dual-slide guitar groove of “HorseHead” garnered ample crowd response but have thus far failed to spur the sales that “Jealous Again” and “Hard to Handle” did for the band out of the box.

Robinson, as is his wont, also took a moment or two to preach to the assembled masses (with keyboardist Eddie Harsch providing gospel organ accentuations) about peace and love and the power and glory of music — and having a resultant good time, as did Kravitz.

Equally brazen in his willingness to wear his influences on his sleeves, Kravitz’s riff-heavy amalgam of Led Zep bombast and sweet ’70s Sly Stone soul fit nicely alongside the Robinson brothers’ rave-ups and lone ballad (“She Talks to Angels”). But Kravitz upped the funk ante as headliner, backed by the powerful display of drummer Cindy Blackman, with a short solo that the entire band actually stayed to watch reverentially.

What Kravitz had over the Crowes on this night was a hit single on radio and musicvid stations, “Fly Away,” sandwiched in an oddly paced encore between “Let Love Rule,” during which Kravitz left the stage to exhort the crowd to sing along, and “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” which featured an anticlimactic jam.

Lenny Kravitz; Black Crowes

Irvine Meadows Amphitheater; 15,416 capacity; $32 top

Production

Presented by Avalon/Coors Light. Reviewed April 23, 1999.

With

Bands (LK): Kravitz, Craig Ross, Cindy Blackman, Jack Daley, Harold Todd, Michael Hunter, George Laks, Nehemiah Heild; (BC): Chris Robinson, Rich Robinson, Steve Gorman, Eddie Harsch, Sven Pipien, Audley Freed.
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