Metro & State

October 12, 1998

The Pantagraph

ISU Braden Concert a ‘keeper’
Kravitz, Lennon, Furslide:
another in series of cutting edge concerts

By Karen Strawn
Special to The Pantagraph

Saturday night’s performance at Braden Auditorium featuring debut rock band Furslide from New York, the late John Lennon’s younger son, Sean, and headlining act funk-master Lenny Kravitz was a keeper.

Illinois State University’s Entertainment Committee rocks. Members of this committee have proved they can take the pulse and meet the need of student body entertainment by hosting artists on the cutting edge of this generation’s boundaries. Entertainment reaching back with Bruce Springsteen, reaching forward with Beck and just plain reaching with Marilyn Manson.

From 7:45 to 11:30pm, a restless, dancing, loud crowd of 1,700, mostly students, experienced a night of firsts: The first time for Sean Lennon to perform at age 23. The first time for Furslide to tour, promoting their first album. The first time for many Kravitz fans to see him without his trademark full-length dreadlocks. The first time for the musicians to play Normal (with the exception of Lennon guitarist, Smokey, who played here last year with Beck).

Kravitz appeared on stage after a lengthy rock-instrumental opening teaser, titled “Straight Cold Player,” also from his latest album, performed by his band members. Kravitz’s stage presence is captivating. His body is full of funk, marking every beat with rhythmic moves of purpose.

The essence of Kravitz’s latest album, “5”, combines a spirit of courage in the face of life’s pain with an ever-growing awareness of blessings in the midst of it. His music has matured, revealing a smooth mix of gospel, blues, funk and techno-rap.
From this new album, Kravitz played “Live,” “Supersoulfighter” and “Fly Away.” He also played his 1989 Top 40 smash hit “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over,” with the crowd singing the chorus.

The stage was crammed with musical instruments, tossed with no apparent order. Stacked speakers, amplifiers, a huge hanging Zildijan cymbal and a mass of wires cluttered the stage for the first act. But by the time Kravitz hit stage, (about 45 minutes later than expected) the stage was clear and anchored with the drum set as center focal point framed by large reflecting chrome bulbs.

Everything looked ‘70s. Kravitz, wearing a blue-jean shirt/jacket with silver studs, played guitar and keyboards as longtime friend and band member Craig Ross played guitar. “Drumess” Cindy Blackman was a visual feast with a huge white afro, bulging muscles and skimpy silk mini-dress. Bassist Jack Daley played comfortably and consistently in a burgundy/cranberry-colored polyester suit.

Others on stage with Kravitz were keyboard player Michael Hunter, saxophone player Harold Todd and background singer Nehemiah Heild.

Kravitz performed with high energy and Bahama-like sensuality. His sweat rags ended up in the pockets of lucky front-row ladies.

The evening began with Furslide, featuring female lead guitarist and vocalist Jennifer Turner Loud, bassist Jason Lader and drummer Adam MacDougall.

Furslide performed hits from their debut album, “Adventure.” Songs included “Bring you down,” “Love Song,” ”Skinny Girl” and “Over my Head.”

Promoting his debut album “Into The Sun,” Sean Lennon needed no introduction. Lennon’s music is melodically surprising and well-kept. His assumed musical advantage was obvious in the technologically-targeted rhythms and vocal harmonies. With sections of loud, aggressive bass and guitar abruptly changing into waves of floating harmonic vocals that whisper a touch of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Lennon has taken advantage of his megastar upbringing with out depending on it.

His music belongs to his generation, with the rap influence of The Beastie Boys and hard alternative rock heard in the mosh pits of the 1990s.

Joining Lennon on stage was longtime girlfriend Yuka Honda on keyboards, Smokey Hormel on guitars, Duma Love rapper and percussion, Japa Kennon on drums and Timo Ellis on bass and vocals.

From his album, which Lennon described from stage as being “the bomb,” Lennon played “Noise,” “Would I,” “Home,” “Photosynthesis,” “Queue,” “Breeze,” “Spaceship” and “Queen.”

It was really something to watch John Lennon’s son rap. It was eerie, tearful and sobering to see this man with a face so familiar. For this reviewer, this was a concert with two headlining acts.