For a time Saturday, it seemed like the opening night of AT&T’s Playoff Playlist Live! might be the world’s most expensive house concert.
The opening acts, Keri Hilson and Vintage Trouble, played to an audience of hundreds, which, inside American Airlines Center, seemed like even fewer.
Fortunately, by the time Lenny Kravitz took the stage, around 9:40 p.m. (over four hours after doors had opened), there was a healthy crowd on hand, not packed by any stretch, but a respectable showing for an event taking place amid some miserable weather.
It’s a shame more people didn’t show up for this reasonably priced and handsomely staged concert — tickets topped out at $65, a relative bargain these days — as it was a solid collection of artists, all of whom were more or less on the same wavelength.
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Keri Hilson kicked the night off with a 30-minute set, flanked by a four-piece backing band.
Despite her energetic performance — punctuated, somewhat mystifyingly, by a five-minute absence during which she didn’t even change outfits — she was unable to shake the room out of its nearly empty torpor. It didn’t help that she also battled some audio hiccups, which were smoothed out by the time she reached her closer, Pretty Girl Rock, taken from her 2010 album No Boys Allowed. Hilson invited a handful of female fans onstage to dance alongside her, but even that gesture failed to generate any electricity.
Los Angeles foursome Vintage Trouble didn’t screw around at all. Led by dynamic frontman Ty Taylor, who capped the band’s 40-minute performance by roaming deep into the steadily thickening floor crowd, their searing fusion of blues, soul and rock was deserving of far more ears than were actually present.
Even in such a large space, Vintage Trouble made you feel every sweaty note, a full-tilt, damn the torpedoes showcase that was, frankly, the high point of the evening. Given the scarcity of folks on the floor, the band even walked through the crowd after it finished, high-fiving fans on their way to their seats.
Lenny Kravitz, making his first DFW appearance in almost three years, doled out plenty of hits during his 80-minute headlining set, from American Woman to Fly Away, while mixing in several cuts from his 2014 album Strut. “It’s beautiful to be here,” Kravitz told the now mostly full arena, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to America.” (He’s making the most of his return trip — it was announced earlier Saturday that Kravitz will join Katy Perry as a performer at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.)
With a 10-piece band at his back, which included a trio of ferociously skilled horn players, Kravitz punched out his familiar brand of funky rock that’s enabled him to enjoy a career stretching for decades. It’s remarkable how fresh a tune like It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over sounds almost 25 years after its first release, not to mention how well-preserved Kravitz’s falsetto seemed.
Although it was slow to get going, AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! eventually found its groove, and judging from those dancing in the aisles, served as a satisfying appetizer for Monday’s main course.
(AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! concludes tonight with a performance from Sting. Tickets are available here.)
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713