Michael Franti & Spearhead (with Trombone Shorty and Pimps of Joytime)
The Greek Theatre
October 8, 2011
The Greek Theater in Berkeley, California is a magical place. When things align just right, this 8000 seat venue, that boasts impeccable acoustics, can seem downright intimate. Saturday October 8 was one of those nights when a triple bill consisting of funk, R&B and hip hop made its way onto the famed stage.
Courtesy of The Pimps of Joytime, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue and Michael Franti & Spearhead, the Greek was transformed into a dance party of gigantic proportions; and for those who didn’t make it out to the gig, the show was carried to the masses via an online simulcast which will also be available on DVD sometime in the future.
As an appetizer, The Pimps of Joytime put their best foot forward and opened the evening with a brief high energy set and set the table for the stage’s successors. This New York City based band made it clear as to why their climb up the circuit’s ladder has been as steadfastly upward as it has by making the audience — that was primarily gathered for the evening’s headliners — infectiously move to their funky beats.Following the Pimps, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue brought their â€œSupafunkrockâ€ New Orleans sound to the Bay, and it seemed that no soul could stand still while listening to Shorty and company dirtily funk it up.
Troy â€œTrombone Shortyâ€ Andrews is one of the more recent stars to emerge from The Crescent City. Over the past few years, Shorty has appeared seemingly everywhere. From a cameo role on the popular HBO show Treme to European treks with Lenny Kravitz, the trombone prodigy has bolstered his reputation to one of large notoriety through high energy sets that are long on improvisation and short on breaks in energy.
Drawing heavily from the ensemble’s most recent studio effort, ForTrue, Shorty and his group of fellow young New Orleanians served up an intoxicating shot of funk as danceable grooves efficiently lubed up the large Greek crowd for the evening’s main attraction, Michael Franti & Spearhead.
As the lights dimmed and a subsequent introductory film shone, Michael Franti and Spearhead made their way onto the stage. Well known for his positive and uplifting shows, it was no surprise that Franti delivered the goods to theirÂ hometown crowd by not only reaching from the recent top 40 crazed numbers, but also by digging deep from the ensemble’s deep repertoire. Whether going poppy with “Sound of Sunshine,” getting political with “Yell Fire,” or plucking the heart strings with “I’ll Be Waiting,” Michael andÂ crew covered all of the bases.
From the onset, it seemed that Franti had the Greek gathering in the palm of his large hands, evidenced by the energetic response shown to each imploring urge from the front man to â€œmake some noise,â€ â€œjumpâ€ or respond to the “how ya feeling” question that the lanky source of positivity cannot help but ask.
Michael Franti has successfully moved out of hip hop and into the mainstream with songs being featured commercially and while this has caused some members of the “too cool to listen to pop music” club to question his authenticity, what has actually happened is that the door has been opened for a further reaching broadcast of a message of the peaceful and though provoking message that has always been at the heart of Spearhead.
Click the thumbnail(s) to see photos from the show by Susan Weiand…