Aside from his brief cameo alongside Katy Perry at America’s Favorite Spectacle (in which both artists were undeniably outshined by a guy in a rubber animal suit) and a wardrobe malfunction this summer that stole headlines from even musical blogs for and by the hip, it has been quite some time since I’ve thought about Lenny Kravitz… And I was okay with that. (His 2008 It is Time for a Love Revolution proved to be exceptionally mediocre radio rock and the accompanying tour, which played out like a greatest hits Christmas special with the revolutionary potency of tie dye tee, was a sign that he might just officially be irrelevant.) However, I was thankful for the release of Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live last week, courtesy of Eagle Rock entertainment, a reminder that Mr. Kravitz, a childhood hero of mine, was in fact still capable of that brand of soulful blues rock as well as anyone who could be counted on one hand… with the caveat that his greatest works are almost certainly nearly, if not of, legal drinking age.
From the late ‘80s to the turn of the century Lenny Kravitz was kicking out jams that rang as the perfect halfway point between the flower power rocking of The Black Crowes and the Sunset Strip badassery of Guns N’ Roses, proving to be a sort of Aerosmith (okay, not that good) of his generation. And Just Let Go captures the mega-sized rock he is still able to pull off, documented over the course of a three month arena-tour of Europe in 2014. I could argue that the setlist is not quite ideal (I really don’t need to hear “New York City” or “The Chamber” off of 2014’s Strut and I don’t think any Kravitz fans ever again need to hear “Fly Away” or his cover of “American Woman,” which modern rock radio thoroughly beat to death a decade and a half ago), but it does include some of his best work, such as the hyper-sassy rocker “Always on the Run,” “It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over, one of the top-10 power ballads of the 1990s, and “Let Love Rule,” arguably the greatest song he’s every written and likely the only hippie anthem that’s ever induced tears-and-not-vomit from me.
In addition to being a reminder of Lenny Kravitz’s actual skills as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter – an addition to his ability to woe several thousand fans at a time, looking to forget and move on from the bullshit of modern life, in the realm of a rock concert – Just Let Go also poignantly and touchingly documents the relationship between Lenny and his band, who appear to be as artistically and culturally diverse a beautiful collective of musicians as could ever thrive and compete in popular culture. While far less cinematically profound as Dont Look Back, it certainly does resemble the tale of Bob Dylan taking on Europe with the likes of peers like Joan Baez and Donovan, through footage of rehearsals, backstage dolling up, and pre-and-post-show barrooms. And by the film’s end it would seem to be clear just why Mr. Kravitz has managed to thrive for more than 25 years as a pop cultural entity and why he and his music mean just as much as it does to his fans.