The QT

Friday 19 July 2024

A Hundred Reasons to catch Lenny Kravitz

Twenty years ago Simon Rushworth found himself at a loose end in Lisbon. In the latest lookback on a colourful career in the media, The QT’s Associate Editor reveals how he ended up face to face with Lenny Kravitz in the Portuguese capital

It was the eve of Euro 2004 and the beautiful people of Portugal were counting down the hours until the host nation tackled Greece in the opening match of a hotly anticipated tournament.

I’d been in Lisbon for a few days, locked into my first international tournament alongside Sven Goran Eriksson, Wayne Rooney et al and ready for what I hoped would be a six-week rollercoaster of football-fuelled emotion.

But with England’s opener against Zinedine Zidane’s France still 48 hours away — and with my latest Journal column, back page and double spread safely dispatched — I was in desperate need of some downtime.

On the flight over I’d noticed that the 10th anniversary edition of the Super Bock Super Rock Festival was taking place at Lisbon’s vacuous Parc Tejo during my stay on the other side of town. 

A music festival sponsored by a beer company? My interest had been unequivocally piqued. 

The three-day event featured an eclectic mix of acts from Linkin Park to Avril Lavigne and Nelly Furtado to Fatboy Slim.

Simon was taking a break from the day job… to focus on the other job

As The Journal’s rock and metal writer (a handy sideline that I just about managed to sustain in tandem with the day job) I clearly needed to be there.

In fact, according to my fellow hack, Damian Spellman of the Press Association, it would have been a dereliction of duty if I’d stayed away.

Nevertheless, whether I could justify adding the price of admission to my Journal expense account was another matter entirely. I already knew what the sports editor’s view on the situation would be and so I set about hatching an alternative plan.

Now we’ve all been guilty of glancing at a packed festival line-up and failing to look beyond the first couple of lines.

Those half pints can add up if you’re not careful

I say all. Not me.

I’ve always checked and double checked the bands due to perform lower down the bill just in case there’s a North East angle or an acquaintance from the past down to play a set.

In this case there was both.

On the day when Fatboy Slim, Pixies, Massive Attack and Lenny Kravitz were in town it’s unlikely many Super Bock Super Rock Festival goers had even noticed the name Hundred Reasons.

But it leapt out to me instantly.

Hundred Reasons, featuring Colin Doran, were a surprise addition to the Super Bock Super Rock bill

Thanks to the band’s lovely PR Anthea (the same person who introduced me to The Darkness long before Justin Hawkins and co. made it big), I’d struck up something of a rapport with the Hundred Reasons chaps.

I’d come to appreciate their unique brand of alternative rock and found myself frequently banging the drum for the superb Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge — released earlier that year.

So imagine my surprise — and delight — when I discovered I’d be in the same city, on the same day, at the same festival and at the same time as Aldershot’s finest noiseniks.

I called Anthea and put it to her that there had never been a better time for me to touch base with Colin, Larry and co. and to file a fresh report on the band’s relentless progress.

In other words, was there any chance she could sneak me into Super Bock Super Rock?

Anthea, being Anthea, suggested it would be no problem whatsoever.

Minutes later she messaged me to say I was on the Hundred Reasons guestlist and ready to rock at Super Bock.

Now Anthea has never let me down.

But I did arrive at the box office on the edge of the Parc Tejo site, affected by a slight flutter of trepidation. By this time, I’d persuaded George Caulkin of The Times, PA’s Damian and a few of the other UK media stationed in Lisbon for the next six weeks to join me in a night of rock and roll debauchery under the blazing Portuguese sun.

They’d all bought tickets but I still didn’t have one. I’d look like a right plonker if my name wasn’t down and I couldn’t get in.

Hundred Reason’s PR Anthea came up trumps as Simon sought to cover the 10th edition of Super Bock Super Rock

But not for the first time Anthea had come up trumps. And not only that, I was handed Hundred Reasons’s spare AAA pass — granting me the run of the Super Bock Super Rock backstage area, the artist zone and the stage itself.

Almost immediately I bumped into a Pixie, spotted Zoe Ball’s other half eating a sandwich and saw the bloke with the massive hair who plays guitar with Lenny Kravitz.

Hang on?

Didn’t Spike from the Quireboys once tell me he was best pals with said six-stringer?

It was entirely possible.

So I strode up to Craig [Ross] — I remembered his name in the nick of time — introduced myself and dropped Spike into the first two sentences. It always seems to work.

Suddenly we were the best of friends. Craig conceded he had nobody else to hang out with (I don’t think he meant it in a ‘so you’ll have to do’ kind of way), explained he wasn’t due on stage for hours and said he’d happily be my backstage guide.

So far, so incredibly good.

Crucially, Craig introduced me to the free bar as a first port of call. I could see why he was so close to Spike…

Craig Ross (right) alongside Lenny Kravitz

Midway between the rear of the towering main stage and the artist area was a Super Bock beer station. It featured somewhere between eight and 14 help yourself taps (I can’t honestly remember) and a pile of half-pint plastic cups. There were even some trays.

As Craig and I supped our second Super Bock, I received a text from a rather flustered George. He explained the British press corps had entered the site and were huddled together stage left, a few rows from the front. “Hang fire”, I replied. “My round!”.

I later discovered that George nearly dropped dead upon reading a phrase I rarely say out loud, and never ever in his company. But it turns out he quickly regained his composure and awaited further news.

With Craig’s help — he’d be blasting out a string of Kravitz co-writes in front of 50,000 people later that night but, for now, knew where his priorities lay — I filled 16 cups and carefully placed them on a tray.

Moments later I was snaking around the side of the stage — my AAA pass flapping in the breeze — and delivering ice cold beer over the safety barrier to George, Damian and the rest.

Needless to say, this surprise development met with everyone’s approval and for the next hour or so I made the same journey from free bar to barrier several times over. After a while, Craig politely explained that he needed to tune his Les Paul and attend to his hair. As he headed back to Lenny’s trailer, I cracked on regardless in my new role as bartender to the broadsheets.

But at some point it dawned on me that this ridiculous state of affairs simply couldn’t continue indefinitely. I was there to review the day’s rock and roll — not pander to a former Sunday Sun hack and his thirst for ale — and so I explained the latest beer run would be my last.

Listen to Hundred Reasons tear through Stories With Unhappy Endings — a highlight of the band’s Super Bock Super Rock set

Given George’s bleary-eyed acceptance of the inevitable — and the fact that he was swaying like a flag in the Lisbon wind — it was probably the wise move. Those half pints can add up if you’re not careful.

Just in time, I caught a typically thunderous Hundred Reasons set as the guys introduced Lisbon to the very best of their bristling back catalogue. 

Highlights included Soap Box Rally and Stories With Unhappy Endings — at a time when the traditional pre-tournament football song had fallen out of fashion, the latter probably could and should have been adopted by Sven as England’s Euro 2004 anthem in the spirit of full transparency.

A music festival sponsored by a beer company? My interest had been unequivocally piqued

Pixies — not normally my bag — were outstanding. But let’s face it, I was here for Lenny.

Determined to test my AAA pass to its limit, I calmly headed into the photo pit minutes before New Yorker Kravitz and sidekick Craig emerged from the wings.

I didn’t have a camera but I’ve never been deterred by mere detail. I found a comfortable spot in between two giant lenses and simply imagined I was pointing a Canon towards the stage.

It was dark by the time Lenny launched into Where Are We Runnin’?, Always On The Run and It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Twenty years after his Super Bock Super Rock set and Lenny Kravitz is still going strong. Credit: Maciej Rogowski

Now it normally is — over, I mean — after three songs where photographers are concerned. It’s usual to beat a hasty retreat after the third song finishes but, as I didn’t have a camera, I didn’t see any reason to move.

I stayed put, perched on a step on the inside of the safety barrier, gazing up at Kravitz, Craig and their voluminous hair. Nobody moved me on. Nobody even tried. And if a new member of security did look like asking a question, I’d carefully manoeuvre the AAA pass until it was clearly visible under one of Kravitz’s copious spotlights. 

Every so often the ground would shake and I’d remember that there were 50,000 other folk singing along to Fields Of Joy or Fly Away just the other side of the barrier. Such was the proximity of the baying crowd, I could smell their breath and was frequently doused in their sweat (at least I hope that’s what it was).

But for most of the time it felt like I was being treated to a personal performance by one of the coolest dudes in rock, fuelled by liberal scoops of Super Bock and as far removed from a football tournament as it was possible to be.

Are You Gonna Go My Way, asked Lenny, looking right into my eyes, towards the end of the show. 

And, honestly, I was half tempted to hook up again with my new bestie Craig, jump on the bus and follow Kravitz to wherever the Baptism tour was heading next.

But, as my magnificent hosts Hundred Reasons had reminded me earlier in the evening, I was in Portugal to cover Stories With Unhappy Endings. And there’ll be more on that in the next few weeks…


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