Michael Franti & Spearhead bring out the “freaky people” in Birmingham

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Michael Franti & Spearhead
Workplay Soundstage
Birmingham, Alabama
August 13, 2009

There are some moments in life that are profound, when something special happens that we remember with descriptions of awe and delight when we talk about them with our friends. Michael Franti and Spearhead’s appearance recently at the Workplay’s Soundstage in Birmingham was one of those moments.

After a steady helping of old school roots reggae house music soothed the souls of those awaiting the main event, Birmingham was treated to a surprise opening artist that is no stranger to the Michael Franti & Spearhead Family – Cherine Anderson.

cherine-300.jpgHailing from Kingston Jamaica, Anderson came to the stage to prepare the Birmingham crowd for what would be a celebration of music.  She sang a powerful interpretation of "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley while encouraging the crowd to sing along. This was followed by a serving of some of her own original high-powered dancehall reggae-flavored tunes which the crowd enjoyed.

With a vivacious introduction from Anderson , Michael Franti & Spearhead came on stage like a riotous wildfire, spewing love and good vibes in every direction. On stage, his presence was well received by the crowd as Franti and Spearhead dashed about during his intro into "Everybody Ona Move." This dance-invoking tune was just a tease for level of energy that would be apparent for the rest of the show. There was a hint of the late Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean" during the opener, a unique way to find common ground with the already allegiant listeners.

As much as Franti is definitely the “front-man,” he was eager to share the spotlight with his talented bandmates. Drummer Manas Itiene offered some very lively scat reggae raps to the frisky "Hello Bonjour," followed by equally crunchy riffs from the amazing guitar skills of Dave Shul. Carl Young held down the bottom of the groove with bass lines that made it impossible to keep from dancing, which the Birmingham Franti fans indulged feverishly. If there were any naysayers still lurking in the crowd that were weary of what this band came to deliver, they were convinced at this early point of the show.  The high energy of the music was laced by the positive humanitarian message which has become the signature of Michael Franti & Spearhead’s mission on stage.

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Even though the fast-paced momentum was the norm during this show, "All I Want Is You" gave fans a chance to calm their dancing feet with a slow reggae tone complemented by words of love and commitment.  Franti threw in elements of the 80s classic "Tainted Love," and the crowed willingly joined in.

franti-a.jpgKeeping the continuity of this moment to get closer to the crowd, he offered the mostly acoustic "Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong," which gave everybody in the venue a very contagious warm and fuzzy feeling. The night was filled with the need to celebrate life and all the good things that are a part of our specific journeys.  "I Got Love for You," a song he wrote and dedicated to his son, refreshed our minds to cherish the people we hold dear to our hearts. This was one of the most tender moments Franti shared during the show.

Michael Franti’s music is full of good time jams, but he also makes a point to serve up some of the most conscious and passionate subject matter.  During the heartfelt performances of "Time to Go Home" and "I Know I’m Not Alone," Franti illustrated his anti-war stance. Instead of ranting, there was the concentration on the need to enjoy a life filled with peace, delivered via  rockin’ reggae-infused sounds. His message is never force fed, but eased into the ears and souls of everyone witnessing his display of love through music.  Franti wants the audience to feel a part of the actual performance that they are watching and listening to, causing them to take ownership of the music and hence, a little positive experience with them when they leave.

Workplay marked the singer’s third appearance since medical problems halted his tour for a short time.  Judging by the pulsing power Franti displayed on stage, he made sure to exhibit his appreciation for the support by giving his fans the best show that they could ask for. The performance this night left the Franti fans at Workplay with smiles on their faces, as the feeling of love for life reverberated throughout the venue. Hopefully this will continue throughout the tour.

To see more shots from the show, click the thumbnail below!

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