Several thousand anxious fans gathered Sunday night at the Mann Center in West Philadelphia to welcome rock virtuoso Lenny Kravitz, on tour for his latest release entitled “Strut,” back to the “City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.” After a phenomenal opening performance by newcomer Andra Day and an approximate 30-minute wait, the crowd collectively decided it could no longer contain its excitement and began to chant and cheer for Kravitz – who last performed in Philly during his “Love Revolution” tour in 2008 – to the stage. Making out the shadowy figures of his 11 member band, including Kravitz, taking the stage the audience erupted in unison. After a group huddle with heads bowed, the stage was lighted and multi-Grammy award winner led the band into the bass driven “Frankenstein” – the only song performed from the current project. Not that anything appeared remiss, with the diverse crowd standing and singing along during the entire 11-song set.
Following up the first song with his signature cover of “American Woman,” Kravitz apologized for the time it took to return to the city and petitioned the audience in getting to “to know each other” again – pairing his request with “It Ain’t Over ’til It’s Over,” from his pivotal 1991 sophomore project “Mama Said.”
Kravitz’s band – anchored by longtime collaborators Craig Ross on guitar, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, Harold Todd on saxophone, George Laks on keyboard, and Cindy Blackman Santana on drums – included a trio of background vocalists and a three-piece horn section that helped usher in the funk, peace and love fest into which the event subsequently morphed.
Attendee and Duafe Holistic Care salon owner Syreeta Scott, and her five-year-old daughter Parker, can certainly attest to the spirit of love that entered the Mann Center. When Kravitz started an acoustic intro to “Sister” with his guitar and vocals, Scott shared that she began to reflect on her life experiences and became overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for her children – which led her to tears. Midway through the song with the band now backing, Kravitz observed Scott – her daughter patting her back to console – and left the stage to offer a lengthy embrace and words of encouragement. Elaborating on the exchange Scott further stated,
“I was in the second row and he saw what I was going through, came down and hugged the both of us. He kept saying, ‘sister it’s going to be alright.’ I was shocked he cared enough to do that and that he held me so long. When he went back to the stage, people around me began to share words of encouragement. It was nice to have that moment.”
Kravitz continued with his display of generosity throughout the night, allowing individual band members to shine during extended solos and giving homegrown bassist Gail Ann Dorsey a well-deserved special acknowledgment – which elicited thunderous applause from the crowd.
The approximately one and a half hour set concluded with an extended rendition of his peace anthem “Let Love Rule,” during which Kravitz roamed and interacted with the audience, followed by his hit “Fly Away.” Still wanting more, the audience called for the encore – and not disappointing the 51-year-old and band re-appeared to give an expanded version of “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”
Thanking the audience for the love shown, Kravitz worked the stage greeting ecstatic fans and taking selfies, before giving elated admirers a brief dose of eye-candy by removing the denim cut-off shirt that covered his torso and immediately leaving the stage. There’s no doubt that every Philly area Kravitz fan in attendance is hoping it won’t take another seven years for him to return.
The “Strut” tour will next stop in Vienna, VA on September 1, with nine additional dates culminating in Atlanta, GA on September 19.