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Music review

Love is still all Kravitz needs

Lenny Kravitz fills his niche with charisma, style, and plenty of musical skill. Lenny Kravitz fills his niche with charisma, style, and plenty of musical skill. (Evan Richman/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Joan Anderman
Globe Staff / February 2, 2008

"It Is Time For a Love Revolution." That's the title of Lenny Kravitz's eighth album, which comes out Tuesday, and even though Kravitz played only a couple of songs from the new collection at the Orpheum on Thursday, he didn't let anyone lose sight of his agenda. He sang about love, preached about love, and made every effort to give his love to each fan in the sold-out crowd. Kravitz's manicured retro-rock may be nearing the edge of its shelf life, but his career-long commitment to reach a higher plane of the heart is evergreen.

Judging from the Zeppelinesque opener, "Bring It On," and the lighter-waving ballad "I'll Be Waiting," Kravitz is content to keep churning out well-built guitar riffs and catchy choruses forever. The new tunes fit seamlessly into his repertoire, which to Kravitz's credit has evolved into a signature sound despite the artist's slavish devotion to the past.

Backed by an immaculate, seriously schooled sextet, Kravitz plied hooks and heaviness with scripted precision. He only rarely deviated from the well-worn path - which meant that stylish, numbing "Lady" and "Where Are We Runnin'?," with its distressing echoes of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, remained shallow exercises in connect-the-dots songcraft.

On the other hand, Kravitz has been known to put his skill set to giddy, galvanizing use, and Thursday's big-money run of hits was irresistible. His funky, minimalist cover of the Guess Who's "American Woman" fed into a rousing singalong on "Fly Away," which led to a laid-back jam-turned-group hug on "Let Love Rule," the artist's most pungently Lennonesque homage.

That's when Kravitz, a disarmingly down-to-earth flirt, stepped off the stage and took a good long trip through the venue, laying his hands on as many people as he could sidle up to. He was rallying the troops for the coup, which was outlined in a mid-song soapbox moment: "We're at a crossroads," Kravitz said as the band played on. "It's the beginning of a global change of consciousness. It's time to be the love revolution."

Of course, it was 18 years ago when the first of many "love rules" songs came out, but who's counting? Certainly not Kravitz, who has stayed on message as valiantly as he has stayed inside the narrow spectrum of songwriting he's allotted for himself. Kravitz has flourished there: His roaring, show-closing performance of "Are You Gonna Go My Way" was a thrill.

But that song goes back 15 years ago and was borrowed from a guy named Hendrix, and there haven't been a lot of thrills since. He's got the charisma, the chops, and the craft down pat. What Lenny Kravitz needs are a few good ideas.

Joan Anderman can be reached at anderman@globe.com. For more on music, go to boston.com/ae/music/blog.

Lenny Kravitz

At: Orpheum Theatre, Thursday

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