Sunday, July 8, 2007

Micheal Franti & Spearhead at Bluesfest

Like usual, Franti and his band of misfits put on an brisk show full of fine reggae and ska-influenced moments of raw energy. He had the crowd moving to his peace-loving vibes, something Franti is renowned for, given his music’s heavy reliance on messages of social (in)justice.

While I dig Franti’s message, last night his irksome tendency to chant out various calls to arms was a bit too much. I saw him last year at Bluesfest, that’s where the photos accompanying this review come from, and it was a bit of an irritant then, but the party went on. But last night, it drove me a little crazy. I think I woke up this morning hear Franti yelling “Ooooooottawaaaaaaa! How you feelin?” over and over again. We get it Micheal, you like saying our city’s name, and you care about how we all feel, I mean that’s central to your message, but please, spare us the repetitive mush. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to choose between Van Morrison’s scorn for the audience or Micheal Franti’s over-enthusiasm, I’d take Franti any day. I just wish he’d add a bit of variety to his efforts to engage the audience.

And whatever happened to Franti & Spearhead’s hip-hop rhythms. It seems that when they perform live they turn to more conventional rock, reggae and ska sounds, but I always miss their hip-hop beats. Maybe next time they’ll pull out the hip-hop from the bag, I think everyone would appreciate it.

On the point of variety though, many people in the crowd enjoyed his environmentally-charged version of the Sesame Street anthem. It was a great way to get the crowd involved in a sing-along. Well done! I hope they keep up the good work fighting for environmental, social and racial justice, and in the meantime, that they keep the party alive.