I first became acquainted with Michael Franti's music earlier this year when he was announced as a performer at Mountain Jam IV. I'm sure I had heard several tunes before this but when I sat down to familiarize myself with his music he became one of my must see artists (along with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals).
Franti's Mountain Jam performance didn't disappoint. When he yelled. "I want to see you all Jumpin" the whole side of Hunter Mountain had hands in the air and we were up on our feet. I also had a chance to listen to him speak and perform a few songs acoustically at the Awareness Village before his actual Mountain Jam stage performance. BFF Kim ran into Cappy Franti (Michael's 21 year old graffiti artist son) roaming the grounds, grabbed his hand and licked it stating. "I love your father." Of course, when she told me and her son Zack what she had done. I looked at "nephew" Zack and said "your mother is fucked but I love her' and Zack just shook his 23 year old head.
When BFF Kim suggested we go see Franti and Spearhead when they hit Albany I didn't hesitate to say yes. We had choices of seeing Tea Leaf Green in Woodstock on 11/20/08 and Dark Star Orchestra on Saturday 11/15/2008 at the Palace but opted for a girls night out where we knew we would be on our feet.
We started the night off with Vietnamese food at Van's located on Central Avenue in Albany. We met up with a couple of Kim's former music student's there. I wound up ordering the Noodle soup with Shrimp and we split an order of fried spring rolls. We didn't have enough time to explore the menu but the Noodle Soup was huge and delicious and I added in a bunch of bean sprouts, basil and jalapeno from a platter they placed on the table to liven the dish up.
It was getting close to concert time and after parking we wound up arriving late into the set of the opening hip-hop act the Solillaquists of Sound. I had never heard of the opening act and there weren't many people seated when we took our seats in the loge (lower balcony) of the Palace. I did notice that the drummer played digital drums (which look nothing like a traditional drum kit) with his head, hands and feet and looked at Kim and said: "Does anyone play a real instrument anymore?" That got a chuckle from Kim.
After a long intermission, Cherine Anderson took the stage for the first 3-4 songs bringing a male audience member up to bump and grind near her on one song. She has a great voice and definitely added to the show. Barbados may bring us Rihanna, but Cherine represents Jamaica well.
Finally a barefoot Franti took the stage. I couldn't find an Palace Theatre setlist anywhere but what follows is pretty close:
Set: Hello Bonjour / We Don’t Stop / Rude Boyz / Time To Go Home / Sometimes / Hey Hey Now / Keep On Rolling / Pass The Kutchie / Jam Rock / All I Want Is You / Little Bit Of Riddim / EDM / Nobody Right / Is Love Enuff / Never Too Late / Remote Control / Everybody Ona Move Encore: Hey World / I Got Love For Ya / Sound System / Barak Obama / Yell Fire/ Say Hey
Opening song Hello Bonjour is one of my favorites and I was up on my feet for at least the first three songs. When he sang 'I want to see you all jumpin!", I obliged (even though my body felt it the next day). What I like about Franti is how he deftly segues from hip-hop/rap with a reggae beat to folkie styled acoustic ballads with dub and techno in the mix. He even did the old Musical Youth song "Pass the Dutchy' but returned it to to its original lyrics of Kutchie. One song lyrically reminded me of U2's Beautiful Day.
As I sat and listened to one of his ballads I was transported back to my days as a CU college student circa 1980-1983 when I was actively protesting the sale of Coors beer on campus and the Nuclear Arsenal at Rocky Flats. Franti's message is a message of social activism and when he says "people like you and me" you realize he just may be the type of dude you can sit down and have a latte with, who is unfettered by celebrity and as his lyric goes. "Says what he means and means what he says".
The house was on his feet in a celebratory mood on the song Barack Obama. I only felt a little bit bad for any McCain fans in the house. There was only one loud piercing short female scream when he asked if there were many McCain fans in the house but the house roared when he asked 'How 'bout Obama?
Kim was hoping we'd run into Franti since he is pretty accessible to his fans he even came out into the audience post show. She loves his dreads and always cries "I love dreads, how did I marry a bald man". She always jokes she'd run off with him in a heartbeat. When I remind her shes married she states "I'd tell Michael (her husband's name) to go find some 20-something as a trade. Me, I'm not into the whole rock star thing, even though I have a perverse fascination with Bret Michaels. I mean I've sat about three feet away from Sully Erna in the Foxwoods poker room but I don't want to jump his bones (at least not when I'm playing poker)
From the few reviews I found about the Albany Spearhead show, this was one of the most high energy shows and he and the band gave it their all in the 2.5 hour set. I'd go see him again in a heartbeat. The only thing missing was the Flower dude
And when Franti leaves you with: 'I love you, I love you, I love you' you really believe he does and means it.