Saturday Night: Michael Franti & Spearhead At House Of Blues

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Photos by Jason Wolter
Michael Franti & Spearhead
House of Blues
October 2, 2010

Check out photos from the show.

Hands are in the air immediately with the stupidly fun show opener "Love Don't Wait," as Michael Franti and his Spearhead instrumentalists file out onstage. Franti is a big dude, built like a basketball player. Saturday, he was clad in black sleeves, navy blue pants, an orange scarf around his neck and a pair of bare feet.

That's right, Franti has been walking the earth barefoot for 10 years. He later joked that his feet are made of nails and chewing gum.

If you had any problems before you walked into House of Blues, they disappeared once a grinning Franti and his excitable guitarists took the stage. Franti encourages jumping up and down throughout the show, and the audience obliged for much of the night.

Spearhead's music today is a potpourri of ol'-skool reggae, rock, hip-hop, soul and a little bit of riddim, a far cry from the angst-laden music of his early days.

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As a founding member of The Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Franti originally set out to create politically charged tunes that reflected his social concerns. Soon, he learned about the moronic resentment that befalls any musician who dares ask people to engage in socio-political discourse.

Franti grew his hair out, took a more motivational approach and decided to explore his love for reggae and ska. Hip-hop - at least the type Franti was making in the '80s - was synonymous with rebellion, and wasn't exactly a lucrative affair. Franti slapped a dash of joy and saccharine on his cause, and Billboard success, here we come. Riddim twin towers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare behind him, 2008's All Rebel Rockers gave Michael Franti & Spearhead their breakout reggae album, featuring the insanely popular "Say Hey (I Love You)."

Franti continues to reach out to raise the fallen through the genuine joy that radiates from his music. His voice is rich, compelling and warm. He's tied to numerous social causes, and loves to smile. Think Joel Osteen with an acoustic guitar.

Franti's attitude is infectious. Bassist Carl Young works his charm with a cool demeanor. Guitarist Jay "Boogie" Bowman, who looks like Shane Battier if the Rocket were 10 inches shorter and had a Mohawk, keeps a permanent smile on his face. It's almost as if everyone on Team Spearhead had to pass a congeniality test.

Straightforward lyrics on the perilous state of our planet and the poverty of compassion grace Franti's albums. Trips to war-ravaged Iraq and Palestine helped shape his worldview. "Tell me that somebody stopped the war," he sings on "Sweet Little Lies."

Saturday's crowd was particularly ecstatic when he sangs those words. Still, you'd have to go back two albums and four years to find similarly themed lyrics. And that's no coincidence.

Musically, Spearhead is bubbly, organic and energetic. If you can't vibe to these guys, you don't have a pulse. There were no folded arms in sight Saturday night. Drums kicking. Bass bumping. Nothing else matters. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and Franti is throwing a dance party.

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