Paul Wilson: Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Crossroads

Franti close up

Michael Franti

This isn’t going to be your standard issue concert revue…

Because this wasn’t your standard concert; it was more of a spiritual experience than anything else, where Franti came to play his music and mingle with friends. And by mingle, I mean actually mingle. He spent more time in the audience playing and singing than any musician I’ve ever seen…more on that later.

I met a few friends outside the venue prior to the show. One was blogger, author, servitor, food authority David Hayden and his lovely lady Paula. David and I differ on several points of view in the political world, but I like David a lot and he’s dead accurate in his music views. He had met Franti on a few occasions and told me how normal and accessible he was, so media pass in hand, I headed over to the busses and sure enough, the band was just hanging out.

I motioned to one of the security dudes about my interest in asking a couple of questions and Franti walked right over with J. Boogie his guitarist. I got to visit with the guys for several minutes and they were just totally delightful. I told him I’d written a preview on the show and mentioned him giving a lot of credit to the Midwest for his success which he confirmed. Then he gave me copy of the set list, said goodbye and headed back inside.

The concert opened on time with Moon Taxi taking the stage. They were a nice surprise, an indie-progressive rock style group out of Nashville, founded in 2006 by Trevor Terndrup (vocals, guitar), Tommy Putnam (bass), Spencer Thomson (guitar, programming), Tyler Ritter (drums), and Wes Bailey (keys). They met at Belmont University, one of the premier music colleges in the nation.

Earlier this month they released Mountains Beaches Cities, their third album on 12th South Records. YouTube some of their stuff and a few tracks may lead you right to iTunes, especially “Cabaret” on which Wes Baily all but destroys his “B3;” but being a keyboard fan, I’m a little prejudiced.

A good, solid opening act, for sure.

After a longer than expected set change the man himself took the stage. I noted in the opening that a Michael Franti concert is a very spiritual event and it is, both in message and song. I was on the front rail, flanked on one side by a couple who came all the way to KC for the show because they were “tired of seeing Franti at Red Rocks” and wanted to check him out in a different venue. So they chose KC. On my other side were three girls, one of which represented herself as his biggest fan and came complete with her own sign, which paid off a little later.

Moon Taxi

Moon Taxi

Early in the set, guitarist Carl Young came to the mic and did a great rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair”.

An early favorites in the set was “Do It For The Love, a song inspired by the lessons taught to Franti by his mother when she coached him to learn his music, follow his heart and do it all for the love. The song repeats over and over, it’s not for the money, it’s not for the ladies, it’s all for the love. A lesson that stuck and you can tell a 100% authenticity in his performance, Franti’s definitely doing it for the love.

Franti talked for some time about his early childhood and adoption as I mentioned in my preview piece. He said, at 4’6”,  his mother was a fierce woman who taught equality at every turn. Franti was adopted by a white family who had two kids of their own, a lesbian sister and a black brother. He said his mom was relentless in teaching that it doesn’t matter where someone is from, their beliefs, the color of their skin or their economic status, we’re all the same. That message obviously stuck and is the underlying mission in  Franti’s life and music.

Franti w bandOn Gansta Girls security came to the front row and took several girls up on stage as “backup singers” and “his biggest fan,” standing next to me, was picked to be one of them, staying on stage for two or three numbers.

There were a number of really young kids there with their parents, all seemed to knew the lyrics, all were dancing, but none was cuter than a little girl a few people down from me on the rail. She couldn’t have been more than 5, dancing her heart out and singing all the songs. At one point when Franti made yet another walk through the crowd, guitarist J. Boogie came off stage and worked his way down the rail. Having just met him minutes before, he made eye contact with me, smiled and nodded. I motioned to him and playing the entire time he came right up to me. When I pointed down next to me at the little girl his face lit up, he walked right over to her, nearly kneeling, and played just for her.

I said this wasn’t going to be your standard concert review.

I apologize for not digging into the technical merits of the players and nuances of Franti’s work. That said, I’m convinced practically anyone  could go to iTunes and pick anything at random and not be disappointed. From his earlier rap inspired work to his most current, no disappointments.

David Hayden said it best afterwards: “Great show. I don’t know how anyone could go to one of Franti’s shows and not walk out feeling better than when they arrived.”

And in the end, isn’t that the point?

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4 Responses to Paul Wilson: Michael Franti & Spearhead @ The Crossroads

  1. Rachel says:

    I totally agree that you leave feeling better than you arrived. This was my second time seeing Franti, my friend ‘the biggest fan’ and I traveled to Minnesota to see him 5 years ago.

    I am moved by the authenticity and relevance of his message. He really means it.

  2. Lauren says:

    Thanks Paul!
    You weren’t dancing, so I wasn’t sure how much you were enjoying yourself. I am so glad to read it was a spiritual experience for you. We all just express that differently.
    You know all the freaky people make the beauty of the world.
    Peace, “Biggest Fan”

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Lauren, I kind of take it all in, absorb it, if you will. Dancing or not, one of the top shows I’ve seen. So nice meeting you, I’ll shoot you some pics when I land! Thanks for helping make it a great night!

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