LENNY KRAVITZ, OZOMATLI
Sunday, September 13, 1998
John Book - Special Contributor, Urban Sounds
After years of enjoying his music, I saw that he was playing in nearby Seattle. But what clinched it was the fact that Ozomatli, a band I had been getting into a lot for the last two months, were going to open. I shelled out my 27 bucks, bought the ticket, and waited. 200 miles and three hours later, I was in Seattle. Got lost trying to find the Paramount, but I got there in time.
Ozomatli started their set by playing music from the lobby. That's right, a wave of drums, whistles, horns, and other percussive sounds came from the back of the hall as the 10-member band from Los Angeles came onto the floor and moved their way onto the stage. The crowd was slow to react.at first, but as soon as they went into "Ozomatli" they warmed up. This group manages to combine Latin, salsa, hip hop, funk, and sometimes Indian music to create a blend that hasn't been this hot since Santana or Fishbone. Then they went into "Como Ves", "Cut Chemist Suite", "O Le Le" and a number of other songs off their debut LP. Rapper Chali 2na was flawless in his execution, never straining or yelling.
Only two down points: I had wanted to see Ozomatli to see what DJ Cut Chemist would do on the turntables. He wasn't there. And they only played 7 songs, 30 minutes. Way too short. By the time I got into their vibe, they were gone.
After a 45 minute wait, the lights went down and the band came out to play "Straight Cold Player". All you saw was the silouette of the band, jamming to an intense groove.
Without time to rest, the guitar riff locked into "Live", the opening track from the "5" album. From the left comes Lenny Kravitz with guitar in hand. Naturally the crowd goes crazy. His first words to the crowd are "wassup Seattle", and within seconds he and the band rip into the intense funk that is "Live". Kravitz was in a denim mode, looking cool like Bruce Springsteen once did 14 years ago. He was the complete rock star tonight, but with a need to show his soul and emotion to everyone. When Kravitz yelled "EVERYBODY!" before the chorus, his stage lighting shined bright on the crowd, and with fist in hand he wanted to unite us all with music. They then went into "Supersoulfighter", and it was here that I paid more attention to the drumming from Cindy Blackman. Already known in the jazz field, she is well known these days as the "chick with the big hair in all of those videos". Sometimes I would zone out and just listen to the drums, and she just blew me away. I could listen to her play all night.
For song #4 they went back into time with "It Ain't Over Till It's Over", which was done with style. Finally, he told the crowd good evening before going way back to 1989 for his awesome "Freedom Train".
But the highlights started with the next song, "Tunnel Vision". Seems that Kravitz was psyched this night, for he pounded his hand with the tambourine to the point where it was bleeding. He showed the crowd his hand, but they were rocking and dancing. After a few minutes into the song, he said his hand was all f***ed up and needed to fix it up. Without stopping or slowing down, the band continued playing "Tunnel Vision". The groove was locked tight, and guitarist Craig Ross did his best to fill in the time with an amazing solo. Meanwhile, drummer Cindy Blackman was just lost in her own groove as well, and everyone was dancing. Some were probably stunned wondering if Lenny would ever come out again. But those who were locked in the groove didn't care. Then the horn section started to do their solos, both saxophone and trumpet. I never experienced those early James Brown shows, but it kinda felt like how I imagine it would be, where those who moved were united to move.
Then Lenny came out again, and he apologized, and said they're gonna have to "reattach" his fingers. From what I could see, all fingers were there, looked like he suffered a few scratches. He promised he would be back, so he danced right to the side of the stage again and the band... that's right, they continued to play. We were already 20 minutes into this song, and the band demonstrated the art of the jam to the fools who were raised by sanitized drum loops. This was the funk, in my opinion. The saxophonist (didn't get a name) then moved to the center of the stage and continued to do another solo. I was like damn, where is Maceo and Fred Wesley? I was dancing and moving like I never moved before, I was in that zone and I did not want to let up. Finally, after 25 minutes, Lenny comes back and thanks the crowd before getting into the song in the EXACT spot where he left off. "Tunnel Vision" ended up being 30 minutes long, and I wanted more.
But the show had a lot of other great moments too. Most of the hits were there, such as "Stand By Your Woman", which turned into a nice jazz number when the sax solo was replaced by a trumpet solo, giving the song a lush, sexy tone to it. "Don't Go And Pull A Bullet In Your Head", "Can't Get You Off My Mind", "If You Can't Say No"... it was just one great song after another. He then went into his unofficial anthem, "Let Love Rule". Since this was the first time Kravitz played Seattle in years, the crowd, being the ever patchouli loving Seattlies, were ready to share their love with their now-dreadless master. But it was a powerful moment where the crowd did the sing-a-long, and Lenny decided to make a speech, perhaps a preachy one. He talked about how people should not rely on modern conveniences such as TV and radio, and we should get out and expreience things for ourselves. At one point he got into the crowd and they carried him like Jesus walking on water. It almost felt like a gospel moment. The song went on for a good 17 minutes, before thanking the crowd and saying g'nite Now it was time for the encores. When Lenny and the band came out, he immediately ripped into "Are You Gonna Go My Way". The crowd went so crazy, I thought I was watching a Gap commercial. I witnessed the crazy white guy who is in his own groove, creating dance moves that have never been seen before or since. I witnessed a lot of kids trying to act like the images they seen in the video. I was waiting for someone to jump off the balcony. Just when I thought the song was over, Kravitz got himself into a groove and just lost it. He was dancing on stage, Craig Ross did another amazing solo making me wonder if he may be one of the more underrated guitarists in rock today. This went on for a good three minutes before Cindy Blackman went crazy one more time and ended the night on a good note. Or so I thought.
It was now time for encore #2. He came out with his acoustic guitar, and to thank Seattle for being such a good crowd. He then went into "Believe", just him and the guitar for about three minutes before the band slowly moved to their positions to carry it all the way until the end. It was an emotional moment, I felt it and the crowd did too.
Lenny took one look at the crowd, said thank you and goodnight, and before he could leave, his hands went to his eyes and he cried. It was a beautiful moment, he moved his hands into a praying position, saying thank you by bowing, and leaving the stage satisfied and happy.
I never experienced anything like that, and I wanted more. It ended on a very powerful note, and anyone who has ever said Kravitz is a kid with a hippie-fetish needs to check him out live. His concerts are the proof, and I was an instant convert. He is confident of his "rock star" status, or at least takes it to the limit, while proving he can rock and funk any place he steps in.
Let love rule indeed.
John Book - Special Contributor, Urban Sounds