Michael Franti & Spearhead

What artist can you name that not only called audience members to the stage, but also ventured into the audience and then up to the balcony to honor his high school volleyball coach sitting there?

Michel Franti & Spearhead, best described as acoustic rock with a hint of reggae, played a joyful show this past Thursday at the San Diego House of Blues.  The majority of his set covered his new album, the appropriately sunny “The Sound of Sunshine”- the perfect title for a San Diego day (as Franti himself remarked before playing the title track in concert).

I have been to a lot of concerts, but I can name very few that were as ecstatic and personal as this one. Franti could not get enough of the audience, and they could not get enough of him. He arranged two boxes in between the general admission barrier and the stage  so he and his band could interact more closely with the audience, and called audience members up for multiple songs, notably  during his hit finale, “Say Hey (I love you)”, when he called up “everyone in the crowd over 60” to dance with him. Franti also paid homage to three of his coaches from his school years who attended the show- calling them up on stage, dedicating songs to them, and even journeying up to the balcony to serenade one. It was a great thing to see such a successful artist be so aware of his roots and in touch with his audience.

The music itself only enhanced this experience. Franti’s overwhelmingly optimistic and positive message is reflected very strongly in his songs- not only in his lyrics, but in the music itself. The entire crowd (Franti and Spearhead included) did not stop dancing until the very last song. My personal highlights included a powerful “I’ll be Waiting” and a soaring, joyful “Hey Hey Hey” (my two picks from “The Sound of Sunshine”). To further enhance the music, special guests RadioActive (a rapper who offered some San Diego- inspired rhymes) and amazing fiddler Amanda Shaw joined the stage for a few songs. The crowd, too, seemed to feel lifted by his message, because when he explained his connection with a charity that collects shoes for those in poverty, people immediately began throwing their shoes on the stage.

I would recommend Michael Franti & Spearhead to anyone who needs a lift or  some . To paraphrase one of Franti’s popular songs, “everyone deserves this music.”