Blu-ray Review: Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live

By , Contributor
Lenny Kravitz is a real survivor. More than 25 years after cynics wrote him off as a rip-off of a bygone era, he’s still here and he’s still kicking ass for stadiums full of fans. Kravitz is a phenomenally talented multi-instrumentalist who plays most of the instruments on his studio albums by himself, so he’s perhaps less appreciated as a powerhouse live performer and band leader. Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live, recorded in 2014 during a tour to support his album Strut, offers more than ample proof of his prowess on a concert stage. Highlights include crowd-pleasers like “American Woman,” “Fly Away,” “It Ain’t Over til It’s Over,” and an epic, audience-involving “Let Love Rule" (over 16 minutes in the unedited version found in the bonus features).

The set is also peppered with new tunes off Strut, including the title track, “Dirty White Boots,” “New York City,” and “The Chamber.” His ten-piece band is in smoking hot form, bolstered by the return of highly versatile drummer Cindy Blackman plus Kravitz’s longtime collaborator and guitarist Craig Ross. Tenor sax man Harold Todd’s intense solos provide dizzying high points to many numbers. The performances are uniformly great throughout the film, which incidentally appears to have actually been shot on real film. The concert scenes boast a decidedly classic appearance; grainy, atmospheric, and generally lacking the sparkling perfection that makes so many modern concert films feel antiseptic. I could be wrong about the shooting format, but it sure doesn't look like video.

Here’s the thing though, I can only partially recommend Just Let Go to anyone outside of the diehard Kravitz fan base who will pick it up regardless. Anyone expecting a straightforward presentation of a complete concert from the Strut tour, consider yourself forewarned. Instead of saving backstage interviews for a bonus featurette, this stuff has been dropped in between songs in the main program. In other words, there's absolutely zero flow. When any given song ends, we cut to Kravitz or one of his touring band members. Complicating matters even more, these interviews aren't revealing or enlightening in any way. It's basically a bunch of variations on this theme: "Lenny puts together a great band and a puts on a fantastic show." Well, duh. We can see and hear that for ourselves, so why not just let the music speak for itself? If the concert absolutely must be interrupted, then the comments should be interesting rather than banal.

At least the bonus tracks offers full, unedited versions of several songs ("Sister," "Always On The Run," "Sex," "I Belong To You," "New York City," "Let Love Rule"). The audio is served up as a LPCM 2.0 stereo mix or a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. Both options are available on the bonus tracks, too. And again, the image is quite beautiful and really stands out against the homogenized sheen of most HD video concert presentations. The main program runs about an hour and 42 minutes, with the bonus footage totaling about 20 minutes.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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