Hello, Bonjour, Hola! I planned a lonely night out with Mr. Global thinker and mind speaker Michael Franti as he took to the scenic Delta Bessborough Gardens Tuesday evening for the 2015 Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival.
In complete honesty, while doing my research on the fabulous Michael Franti & Spearhead band I had my doubts. Upon listening to the bands media, I became a little skeptical that the worldly mixture of Reggae, Latin, Funk, Hip-Hop and Rock musical influence may seem a little…well…cheesy? Especially when paired with the good vibes and humanitarian centred lyrical content that can be hard to pull off in the wake of a teenage Bob Marley epidemic.
However, I was proved wrong in grand old Jazz Festival fashion when the good (and authentic) vibes were set right from the beginning and continued to blossom throughout his entire set. As I sat with my newly made buddy at the back of the gardens, Franti used his stage presence to spread a message of compassion, tolerance and love to a crowd that has seen an abundance of both positive and negative current events in the media as of lately.
What sets Michael Franti apart from the rest was his ability to work the crowd. The level of audience engagement was simply unreal. When he wasn’t gallivanting (and I mean truly hopping around, swinging his guitar) across the stage he could be found singing and chanting at the very back of the huge venue or in the middle of the tightly packed mosh pit, dancing in barefeet with anyone who was ready to tango. There was not a single bad seat in the house while Franti managed to simultaneously be the security personnel’s worst nightmare and a fans dream come true.
While the musicality hit only the basics of what Reggae, Funk, and Hip-Hop embody rhythmically and lyrically, it didn’t really matter because the show was centred on making sure the audience had a great time and knowing that everyone felt comfortable. It was a diverse crowd of young and old who were not afraid to be dancing and letting go among their fellow concert goers. Franti was no stranger to bringing the crowd on stage to help him sing the chorus. As an audience member I couldn’t help but feel a little warm and fuzzy inside when I witnessed a young boy’s excited demeanour as he comfortably assisted the band in singing Sound of Sunshine in front of the packed venue.
This show by far went beyond what I thought was going to be a mediocre evening of entertainment. As the night went on, my partner in crime and I found ourselves enjoying it more and more. The urge to clap and sing along was all too real. If you are in any way into Michael Franti as a musician, even just a tiny smidgen, give yourself a chance to see him perform live and he will win you over.
As a bonus, Michael Franti paired with the people at One Yoga in Saskatoon to host a morning yoga jam to benefit the Do It For The Love Foundation, which I will gladly plug in the video below.
Mentionable songs from the setlist: 11:59, Say Hey (I Love You), Everyone Deserves Music
Similar Artists of Interest: Xavier Rudd and The United Nations
Musicality: 3/5 Stage Presence/Show: 5/5