Touring in support of their recently released eighth studio album, "All People," Michael Franti & Spearhead had the packed house of fans on their feet for nearly two hours with their unique fusion of rock, reggae, hip-hop, folk and funk, resulting in an auditory explosion of pure joy.
Warming up the masses for Franti was Nashville, Tenn.-based Moon Taxi, with a tight albeit brief set (only about 25 minutes). Though not possessing anywhere near the energy level of Franti and Spearhead, Moon Taxi was entertaining – their sound ranging from groovy disco beats to hard-driving guitar solos to full on jams. Keyboardist Wes Bailey was a particular standout and lead vocalist/guitarist Trevor Terndrup makes a dynamic and charismatic front man.
Not one to make fans wait around, Franti took the stage just after nine and immediately drew the crowd in, encouraging everyone to jump up and down and throw their hands in the air to "I Don't Wanna Go." His set primarily focused on songs from the new album, with a few older tunes sprinkled throughout, including raucous anti-war anthem "Yell Fire!" and "Stay Human (All the Freaky People)," which included a brief segue into Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" performed by bassist Carl Young.
Man of the people that he is, Franti is not content to simply perform from the stage, but rather spent a good portion of the show singing/playing amid the crowd on the floor, and even for a time, in the upper balcony – taking time to hug and/or shake the hands of nearly every fan he encountered. By the time the show ended, he'd hugged nearly everyone in the place.
Even guitarist J Bowman got into the action, strutting his stuff across the bar rails lining the floor during fan favorite "The Sound of Sunshine" as the crowd volleyed giant yellow balloons around the venue.
About mid-way through the set, he paused to talk up a new nonprofit he recently started with his longtime partner, Sara, called Do it For the Love Foundation, which provides people with terminal illnesses opportunities to see live concerts and meet their favorite artists. He then dedicated "Life is Better With You," to Sara, who was working and not in attendance.
He got personal once again before playing the new album's title track, "All People," talking about being adopted as an infant and how his adoptive mother taught all of her children to treat everyone the same no matter their race, religion, nationality or socioeconomic status, dedicating the song to her.
Other highlights included a groovy tease of Daft Punk's summer hit "Get Lucky" stuck in the middle of "Hey Hey Hey," as well as a tease of U2s "One" amid "Say Goodbye." Nigerian drummer Manas Itene took a seat at a conga drum at center stage and shared vocal duties on a moving acoustic "Hey World." Openers Moon Taxi returned to close out the set with the pumped up "Let it Go," lead singer Terndrup sliding across the stage in between Franti's legs and jumping over his back.
After a brief break, the band returned to keep the energy going with a three-song encore including the infectious "I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)" and "Long Ride Home." As is traditional at Franti concerts, he ended the show by bringing all of the kids in the audience (quite a few) to the stage to join him for popular hit "Say Hey (I Love You)," recruiting an adorable blonde girl around age four to help out with the lyrics and encouraging them all to jump and dance.
Franti is perhaps the most spiritual performer I've seen – and not in a religious sense, but in a human spirit sense. He walks the talk – putting his lyrics into action in nearly every aspect of his life, whether through activism, fundraising or simply inspiring those who need it most. Coming from someone else, the "hippie ideals" and messages of peace, love, kindness and humanity might come off as dated or insincere; but when Franti preaches them, you somehow believe him, and it becomes infectious.
It's as if he is truly some kind of shaman, and when he touches you – both literally and through his music – you feel healed and renewed. It's a powerful gift and his fans don't take it for granted, giving him back everything he's putting out in one giant, sweaty, love-fest.
I Don't Wanna Go
Show Me a Sign
Stay Human (All the Freaky People) – Carl Young tease of "It's a Family Affair"
The Sound of Sunshine
Closer to You
Life is Better With You (dedicated to Sara)
Bomb the World
Say Goodbye (with tease of U2's "One")
Hey Hey Hey (with tease of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky")
Let it Go (w/ Moon Taxi)
I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)
Long Ride Home
Say Hey (I Love You)