Michael Franti & Spearhead / Blue King Brown
New Daisy Theatre
October 19, 2007
There are few frontmen in music as compelling as Michael Franti. When he says "put your hands up," the crowd does – he commands that kind of attention. There may be jokes about his repeated, predictable "How you feelin’" quips, but he’s harnessed the cliche to his benefit (see the t-shirts at his merch table emblazoned with the saying for proof). Fact is, that he puts on a hell of a show, and Memphis bore witness in October.
Opening the show was a pleasant suprise in the form of Australia’s Blue King Brown. Much in the formula of Franti – political messages wrapped up in a reggae/hip hop package – they came out and set the tone for the evening. "Water" was phenomenal, and "Master Blaster" saw the band segue into a take on Bob Marley’s "Turn Your Lights Down Low," the first of many nods to the legend over the course of the evening.
Simply put, Michael Franti is an entertainer.
A ball of frentic energy from the start of a show to the last notes of the encore, he’s a joy to watch. Franti works a crowd like very few, and his smile is just as infectious as the songs he sings. He started the show with "Life In The City," and the crowd was into it from the start.
Natalie Pa’Apa’A came out to spit some rhymes with Franti on "Rude Boy," and when Spearhead’s rhythm section sped up, she responded in kind. A natural fit, Blue King Brown and Spearhead would find themselves collaborating for much of the night, whether it was BKB’s percussionist Salvador Persico joining in, or the Aussie group’s back-up singers adding their touch to Spearhead selections.
The slow groove of "People In The Middle" got the crowd swaying, Frant’s smooth vocal delivery meshing well with Dave Shul’s effect-drenched guitar.
Drummer Manas Itiene took a brief solo before leading the crowd through Marley’s "Get Up, Stand Up" which segued into "Stir It Up" that featured a quick-fire verse from "Ganja Babe" before moving from one vice to another, "Red, Red Wine."
Much of the early portion of the show saw Franti give his own take on other artists’ song; be it Steve Miller’s "The Joker" or Sublime’s "What I Got," or even the theme song from Sesame Street, Franti had the crowd singing along.
On the Spearhead originals, Franti showed his dynamic range. From softer tracks like "Sweet Little Lies" to faster "party" tracks like "Everyone Deserves Music," he delivered a consistently great product.
The song of the night may have been the disc closer from 2006’s Yell Fire!, "Is Love Enough." Pa’Apa’A came back for the tune, adding percussion and vocals as Franti, seated on a stool, played acoustic. The duo had the stage to themselves, and the whole room stood relatively and respecfully silent as they poured their souls out.
The show ended with Franti’s bread and butter, politically charged rock. He told the crowd to jump during "Time To Go Home," and they did. He called for flames during "Light Up Ya Lighter," and as the lights in the room were shut off, the band peformed by the light of seemingly hundreds of lighters held aloft.
Over the course of the night, from start to the set-closing "I Know I’m Not Alone > Yell Fire," Spearhead delivered its message. Proponents of peace and unity, few deliver their thoughts like Michael Franti
If more did, this world would be a much better place.
Blue King Brown
Revolution > Don’t Let Go, Water, It’s Not Too Late, Master Blaster > Turn Your Lights Down Low, Us and Them, Come and Check Your Head
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Life in the City, Hello Bonjour, Sometimes > Rude Boy, People in the Middle, Get Up, Stand Up > Stir it Up > Ganja Babe > Red, Red Wine > People in the Middle, Sweet Little Lies > The Joker > Sweet Little Lies, (Stay Human) All the Freaky People, To the East To the West, The Future, Everyone Deserves Music, I Pray For Grace, Never Too Late, Is Love Enough?, What I Got > Sesame Street Medley > What I Got, Hey Now Now, Time to Go Home, Light Up Ya Lighter, I Know I’m Not Alone > Yell Fire
Encore: One Step Closer, Everybody Ona Move > Redemption Song > Everybody Ona Move, Say Hey