Michael Franti took the stage a few minutes later to a packed house. The fans had come early and they love Michael Franti and Spearhead. If you haven’t been to one of his shows or don’t know his music well, there is a real vibe that he sets. Michael’s music is a mix of reggae and jamming that just makes you feel good and want to sing along. He has a true love for his fans and shows it by including them in the show and making it a unique experience in comparison to any other show you might see.
Michael started his set with The Sound Of Sunshine, immediately ten huge balloons were inflated by his team and started bouncing around the crowd as everyone sang along. Out of nowhere a girl jumped on stage, while most people would have security escort her off, Michael handed her a second mic and encouraged her to sing along. As he said, the fans are like a family and he welcomed them, “the old family member who had been there for years and the new family that was joining tonight for the first time”.
He followed that with a song that he had written for his son I Got Love For You and it was at that point that I noticed the backdrop with the giant words “Power To The Peaceful” written across it. Throughout the show he weaved in some of his favorite pop songs, merging I Got Love For You into U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
Throughout this entire event the crowd was singing and dancing. Michael ,always the encourager would take a slow song and speed it up with a “let’s dance” to get the vibe going again with songs like My Favorite Wine Is Tequila.
At this point he jumped off the stage and started playing as he walked through the crowd. This is a thing that I have seen many artists do, but none in this way. As he sang, he walked slowly through the main floor dancing with fans to a small secondary stage in the back of the room in front of the elevated seats. From this small 5x5 foot stage, he played several songs, inviting fans to join him on stage, to sing, to dance and generally to have a good time.
At the mid point of the show he stopped to talk about his parents and the culture of kindness they created through the lessons they taught him. He stressed a message of inclusion and ended by saying that his mom had always taught him that everyone deserved to be “Happy, Healthy & Equal”. The crowd burst into applause and the dancing kicked off again as he drove into Good To Be Alive Today, followed by Get Myself To Saturday, on which he handed a second mic to one of the fans and had them sing along with him as the crowd all jumped and danced. In other instances, this would have upset me, with thoughts of “I didn’t come here to hear someone else sing” but the vibe was so sharing and giving, that all I could think was how happy this woman looked with her arm around him singing verse and chorus.
Throughout the rest of the show Michael weaved his way from the main stage to the back stage, even doing a song all the way at the top of the seats, meeting with fans, inviting kids to come on stage and making sure everyone was involved. As he went into 11:59 he encouraged the group of kids, to dance with him on the stage and ended the song with a few bars and chorus from Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, as a tribute to the recently passed Chris Cornell.
As the night came to a close Michael brought his wife on stage and gave a brief shout out to the non-profit charity that they run together Do It For The Love (link). He told a story about brining someone with ALS to the Wanee Festival and the impact, it made. It helped the man feel like himself and been seen instead of overlooked by his profound handicap. Since then, their group has worked to bring people to shows across the U.S. knowing the power that music can have to heal and bring people together. Together they sang Life Is Better With You, as he asked fans to hold hands with their neighbors.
To end the night he shared a brand new song that was written the night before and then asked all the kids in the audience to come on stage. It was amazing to watch, a stage full of smiling kids as he worked his way through Say Hey I Love You followed by a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Here was a whole group of people young and old, on stage and off, holding hands and singing for a better world. As I said, it was a special kind of night. Make sure you check Michael out on the rest of his tour when it comes to your town, so you can experience some of the magic.