There aren’t many musicians in this world that embody more than just music. The top entertainers of the industry have gotten to that level by knowing what it takes to put on a fantastic live show, to really get their crowd going in order to feel that buying a pricy ticket to their concert is justified. Every musician strives to create music that not only connects with their audience on a personal level, but is also exponentially exalted with a killer live show – this is a given. Yet, some performers know how to inexplicably transcend the ‘audience/entertainer’ barrier with a show that has to be experienced to be believed. This top realm of performers includes very few members. Sir Paul McCartney is one of them; Mr. Michael Franti is another.
I have had the pleasure of attending a handful of Michael Franti’s sets – both acoustic and full band – and let me tell you, they are two polar opposite performances. I fully believe Michael Franti is a magical man for a myriad of reasons, and how he performs is one of them. His acoustic sessiona mostly proffer inspirational songs of Franti’s Spearhead days although he does include alternative versions of his hits, delivered in a more somber timbre and tonality. At these particular kind of Franti shows, the audience understands they are receiving an exclusive sneak peek into Franti’s soul as he sits on a stool, pouring his humanitarian heart into the microphone, keeping the beat with his bare foot on a drum pedal alongside his bandmates J Bowman and Carl Young. The night I attended, I watched as everyone left the venue feeling enlightened, calm, contemplative. Franti’s full band performance evokes these emotions as well, yet with an added sense of euphoria, excitement, and awe as you exit the arena. The minute Franti takes the stage, the crowd is already mesmerized. The only way to describe the profound effect Franti’s full band performance has on the concert-goer is that normal show behavior like going on ‘bathroom breaks’ or ‘beer runs’ cease to exist while he’s onstage; you won’t allow yourself to miss one second of it. Franti always engages his audience, pulling attendees onstage to sing and dance (especially the children!) and if you’re not dancing, Franti will make his way through the crowd (usually through a throng of thousands of people) to hug you, sing with you, meet you, and get you jumping. One second, Franti will be onstage, the next in a tree – you really don’t know where he’s going to end up. It’s indescribable.
The minute Franti takes the stage, the crowd is already mesmerized.
Michael Franti’s latest album SoulRocker is proof that his music just keeps getting better. There’s no stopping this man from making the world a better place. The 13-track LP already has several singles circulating the airwaves like “Once A Day”, “Crazy For You” and “Summertime Is In Our Hands”, with more to probably to come in time. This album is FIRE. Franti explains that his music is supposed to inspire change in the world, that “the world needs music that speaks out against hate and violence, that speaks up in support of the planet, in support of justice for all humanity – and also makes you dance!” SoulRocker is the creative epitome of his message, preaching for peace and unity in a world out of control. What are we to make of the news today? How do we cope with tragedy when we are so desensitized from its regular occurrence? Let us come together as people again, create a sense of human connection again, alter the pattern of human suffering forever. Although the subject matter of SoulRocker is heavy, the electronic dancehall and world beat to each track keeps the listener uplifted. There is a way to be conscious of the wrongs in the world and be happy, and Michael Franti has found that balance. One track off the new album, “Once A Day”, is dedicated to Franti’s son who was unfortunately diagnosed with FSGS, or Focal Segmental Glomeruolosclerosis. Even though the disease is heartbreaking for Franti and his family, the diagnosis serves as a reminder that you should be grateful for each and every new day. The song states “everybody ought to hug somebody… kiss somebody… miss somebody… love somebody – at least once a day”… simple guidelines to follow since the time we have on this earth is limited. We might as well show some affection and appreciation to others while we can. It’s all that we can do.
Michael Franti and his band are currently on the road, traveling around the United States and Canada until mid-September. That means there’s a whole summer of fun for Franti fans! If you didn’t catch the Franti crew on the west coast at the 7th Annual California Roots Festival, the band is hitting nine other festivals (in between their headlining shows) including Wanderlust in Stratton Mountain, Vermont; the Twin Cities Jazz Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota; the Milwaukee Summerfest; the Ottawa Jazz Festival; the 21st Annual Mammoth Festival of Beers and Bluesapalooza; Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival; and more. If you aren’t convinced to go see Michael Franti perform live yet, reread this article carefully and seriously consider sharpening your decision-making skills. Franti’s SoulRocker album is now available on all digital outlets, and for more information, visit www.michaelfranti.com.
Preview and download SoulRocker on
- Crazy for You
- My Lord
- Get Myself to Saturday
- Summertime Is in Our Hands
- We Are All Earthlings
- Still Standing
- Good to Be Alive Today
- My Favorite Wine Is Tequila
- Once a Day (feat. Sonna Rele & Supa Dups)
- We Do This Every Day
- I Got Love for Ya
- Do You Feel the Way That I Do?
- Love Will Find a Way
Michael Franti & Spearhead “Once A Day” music video
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.