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Lenny Kravitz & Black Crowes, Pine Knob 1999-05-22

1537 and I were talking about Lenny Kravitz, following his excellent post on the subject, and it boiled down to I should tell the story of the time we saw Lenny in concert.

Challenge: Accepted!

My sister is a huge Black Crowes fan (me too, but not as much as her), and they were playing in Clarkston, Michigan in 1999. The show was at the Pine Knob. So we piled into the car and away we went. We did not have tickets – we were trusting we’d find scalpers.

When we got to the border, I was told to keep my mouth shut. Why? Because I’m the guy who was voted most likely to say something dumb, as a joke, that would get us pulled over and cavity searched. We got through the border easily (with my silence) and we were rolling…

Slowly. Tons of road construction in Detroit delayed us. What was most awesome was the way the road signs for the construction held our hands so nicely – Detour in 100’ and then Detour in 90’, Detour in 80’ and so on. With big flashing lights on signs! Good thing they had so many obvious signs, we might have missed the only way the road was allowing us to go anyway! The only real concern was a detour in a city that we did not know at all, and which has a reputation for being a little rough sometimes. We made it through just fine, though, so, um, thank you, Detroit?

Huge pre-show tailgate party, and we found scalpers who sold us face-value seats. Wahoo! We got into the general admission bowl and found seats about 15 rows back from the stage, right in the center. Sweet.

First up was Cree Summer. Remember her from that Cosby Show spin-off? Yeah. She had a CD, apparently, and was a protegé of Lenny Kravitz’ at the time. I’d love to be able to tell you all about her set but it was completely unmemorable, apparently.

Everlast had a bad cold, and was in a bad mood. He made no effort to hide either of these facts. He played the hit songs the crowd wanted, such as The Ends and What It’s Like, but he sure made it seem like the bloody chore it obviously was, for him.

And then we got to the Black Crowes, the band we had paid good money to scalpers to see. They were excellent, of course. I found the setlist online, and as you can see, it was a helluva show and I don’t even need to review it, this list speaks for itself:

No Speak No Slave
Go Faster
Twice As Hard
Sting Me
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Kickin’ My Heart Around
Sometimes Salvation
My Morning Song
High Head Blues
Wiser Time

Hot damn!

Up next was Lenny Kravitz. The crowd was at its largest, now, for Lenny was the show everyone wanted. Fools, to me the Crowes had ended the night in the best way possible! But we stayed for Lenny, because we’d driven all that way and why the hell not see what this was all about.

Lenny was in full-on soul revue mode. I wish I could remember if he did the James Brown cape thing, but even if he didn’t he should have, because it would just have been the schlock icing on the cake. And I saw James Brown in concert, so I’d know!

I’m no Lenny expert, but I knew most of the songs, so the setlist was aimed at even the casual fan.

Some lowlights from this show:

During one song, the guitar player’s guitar cut out, right in the middle of a solo. He was in full bent-back glory, wailing away and then… nothing. As would we all, he looked down at his guitar in disbelief. Next, he had two choices: 1) try to fix whatever the problem was and get back into the song as soon as possible. I’d like to think most of us would choose this option. No, this guy chose door 2), which was to take the guitar off his body, hold it at arm’s length and then drop it on the stage while looking pointedly at the roadies offstage that they should get the hell out here and fix his problem NOW. Arms crossed (yes!), toe tapping impatiently (yes!) this dumbass primadonna watched imperiously as a roadie scrambled out, picked up the guitar, and re-plugged the patchcord into the jack. That was it. Just plug it back in. Coulda solved that yourself in less than a second, asshole. What a douche.

The second worst moment of the night was when Lenny was yapping away between songs and decided he just HAD to be out there with the crowd, to walk through them and touch hands, or whatever. Remember, this was full-on soul revue revival mode. At the time I remember asking my sister 1) if he was for real, and 2) if he thought he was Jesus, or something. Anyway there goes Lenny right off the front of the stage, and security is having kittens. I don’t even know if thee’d been told this was going to happen. My guess is not. The crush forward was ridiculous, and those security guys could not possibly have been paid enough to defend his Lennyness from the onslaught like they did.

The whole thing was ludicrous. They finally made it up to the sound board and I could see them discussing just how in the hell were they gonna get Lenny back down to the stage to finish the set? It was a long, drawn out nightmare of a stupid decision on his part. What a doofus.

How could it get any worse than that?

The worst moment of the night was brought to us by our excellent seats. You see, once he was finally back on stage and they were playing away through one song or another and I saw, plain as day, that he was lip-syncing the goddamned song! I’d swear to it to this day. At that point, I was done. Enough. Screw you, Lenny. I’m not saying he lip-synced the whole show, probably he didn’t. But for whatever the reason, that song I caught him at it. He’d deny it, surely. Of course he would.

There was one saving grace from this set, though. Lenny’s drummer, Cindy Blackman, was fucking amazing. She was definitely slumming it, on this Lenny gig. Talent oozed off of her, you could just tell she’s got it going on when it comes to playing the drums. Very, very well done, Cindy!

We left the gig a bit early, to beat the majority of the crowd. It was a long drive out, a lot of waiting even then. And then the construction slowed us further on the return trip, and by then we were finsihed. Let’s just get over the border (without incident), find a hotel in Windsor and drive home in the morning. A great plan, except that some sort of convention was in town, and we only got a room in about the tenth hotel we tried because someone hadn’t shown up. And it was a room on a floor with all these convention people, and they were up late partying, talking loudly and drunkenly. We didn’t get much sleep.

We finally got home the next day, and that is the story of how the Black Crowes owned the Pine Knob, and Lenny Kravitz turned my stomach.


For those of you who are interested, the internet says this was Lenny’s setlist:

It Ain’t Over ’Til It’s Over
Tunnel Vision
Rock And Roll Is Dead
Fields of Joy
Always On The Run
Drum Solo
Let Love Rule

Encore 1 – Fly Away
Encore 2 – Are you Gonna Go My Way

My thoughts on this:

1) There could probably have been at least three more songs in this short setlist if Lenny had stayed on the stage like a normal human being, instead of his whole going into the crowd stunt, which wasted a lot of time.

2) He did two encores, one song each? We didn’t stay for the whole thing, but that’s just typical of the way this night went. Get a bigger crowd reaction if you leave and come back TWICE! And waste even more time! I’m starting to wonder if Lenny even wanted to be there.

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