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Published: 2006/01/19
by Randy Ray

Michael Franti and Spearhead Live in Sydney

I recently wrote a Feature”Singing the Elusive Third Verse“: focused upon an interview with San Francisco musician, band leader, political activist and ambassador of good vibes, Michael Franti. We spoke about his performance at the inaugural Vegoose Festival where he held an audience in the palm of his hand better than any performer since the halcyon days of Trey Anastasio and Phish circa 12/31/95a party within a party within _some_thing that means some_thing_.
Sometimes, I definitely go outside of my body and myself, explained Franti. There are times when you are so in the moment that nothing else around you matters. Youre not concerned about if you just played a bad note.

And that pretty much sums up the Sydney vibe. There is definitely a shamanistic tone that is being laid down as Franti lifts the joint from the moment the band takes the stage to tear into the one-two combo of What I Be and Pray for Grace, dances with a lady audience member in a glorious tango after the great every single soul is a poet chorus of the song of the same name, has another lady audience member come up on stage and contribute some amazingly nervous yet real vocals to Feelin Free. She completely takes over the stage and even plays a Kinks-riff on Frantis acoustic to close out her surprise guest appearance. Throughout the rest of the gig, Franti is bouncing all over the place, exhorting the crowd and the band is as tight as a crack whip as the sound seems to come from some magically funky place without beginning or endjust all middle, baby, middle that is all euphoric and blindingly Kurodaesque in every wayTaxi Radio is based on two words that Franti said were common in any country anywhere from Africa to Asia to South Americawell, first he mentions Taxi and Ganja but, he changed his dreadlocked mind on that little joint. Like the others, the song is catchy and upbeat.
Youre not concerned about what youre going to be doing after the show or two weeks from now, concluded Franti. Youre just right there perfectly in the moment and you feel a spiritual connectedness with yourself, the music and other people.
That bond is clearly evident and, although, as our editor, Benjy Eisen, pointed out in his excellent year end roundup of Must Have DVDs, the performance is from 2003, one feels the timeless echo of the soulful and blissed-out State of NOW that Franti delivers. Not that the rest of the band, Spearhead, are a bunch of uninspired slouches. Carl Young lays down a bedrock of groove on bass, Dave Shul is rhythm and reggae personified on guitars, Bob Crawford plays poignant piano and lubricant keys, Mannas Itiene keeps EVERYONE deep in the pocket on drums, Roberto Quintana layers the mix with tight percussion and Radio Active offers witty backing vocals and beatbox shattershots. The loop from Franti & Spearhead that hooks slip, stitch and pass through the crowd and out of the front of the laptop screen where Im watching this bit of Down Under sublime wonder like the flipside of the haunted long-haired chick that exits the screen and enters the real world in the recent horror flick, _The Ring_and back again from Down Under to Up and Overhow ya feelin? Free, brah. Free.

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