For years, Lenny Kravitz has feasted mightily on the remains of ’60s and ’70s classic rock, but his show Thursday at the Santa Monica Civic, he was sucking the bones dry. His pool of ideas, never all that deep to begin with, has been drained. Kravitz has stolen so widely and promiscuously, all that’s left for him to plunder are Grand Funk Railroad and novelty singles, neither of which would be very pretty.
It has become so bad that Kravitz has resorted to stealing from himself: “It Is Time For A Love Revolution,” the title track from his upcoming Virgin album, is a pared down version of “Are You Going To Go My Way,” itself a diluted Jimi Hendrix song, which was performed Thursday with a coda that was a bald lift from “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” It’s a perf so filled with quotes, it’s less a concert than a Zagat review: There’s some Latin syncopation courtesy of “Curtis Mayfield” followed by a touch of “The Rolling Stones” then a soupcon of “Jimi Hendrix.”
But for all that, the two-hour show had its charms. Kravitz may be a mimic, but he is a talented one. There’s not an original note, thought or lyric to be heard, but he puts them across with a swaggering verve that not even the flu he complained about could dim.
As a performer, he has a seducer’s desire to engage, but it’s coupled with a seducer’s willingness to stick with what’s worked in the past. He can expertly take old songs apart and put them back together, but does little beyond that. They’re bright and shiny but unsurprising, more academic than emotional. Each song feels like an exercise, and Kravitz, a facile if lazy songwriter, rarely takes them beyond the “hey, let’s do a Led Zeppelin tune.”
He fills them out live with a collection of old school concert moves — extended solos, false endings, audience sing-along. The evening’s most unexpected moment found Kravitz taking over the drum kit for an extended jam that moved from slow psychedelic blues to “Jack Johnson”-era Mile Davis fusion (featuring Michael Hunter on trumpet) before drifting into “Live/Dead” guitar solo by Craig Ross; like everything else it was well played but would have been more impressive if didn’t feel cribbed from an old Fillmore East bill.
Kravitz plays Gotham’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Feb. 1.