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Taken from Napa Valley Register (July 26, 2017)

Franti captivates at Mondavi concert


Michael Franti wades into the crowd at the Mondavi Summer Music Festival concert on July 22. Photo by Yousef Baig

I had my reservations even as I was walking into Michael Franti & Spearhead.

It wasn’t because Franti’s not a talented songwriter or captivating frontman (he is — on both fronts). It was more because I prefer a dash of darkness with my music, and Franti can be almost too joyous sometimes.

He comes out jumping and clapping, and we’re supposed to go zero to giddy with him from the first note. Me, on the other hand, well I’m OK if we get a reprieve from the silver lining for at least a song or two.

That said, Franti completely surpassed my expectations, and I found myself surrendering at a much deeper level to the fourth installment of this year’s Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Concert Series on Saturday night.

The wine and front-row seats definitely helped. But the eclectic rocker, who plays a brand of conscious, reggae funk that can be categorized in countless different ways, brought a storm of unity and feel-good vibes that was impossible not to get swept up in.

Franti worked through a decades-long catalog of music that bounced from hip-hop to rock ‘n roll to standstill acoustic ballads.

His sets lean on the interactive element, encouraging singing, clapping and jumping through every build, peak and drop. The Oakland native ran through the crowd like a kid in a candy store, playing on small pop-up stages in various spots of the courtyard-turned-concert venue.

At one point, he even pulled this reporter on stage with him when he was playing near the end of the reserved seats, effectively eliminating any shred of objectivity I might have had. It was a fascinating glimpse into the eyes of a rock star, with a sea of faces smiling back, dancing, and waving their hands with drunken adoration. Thankfully, Franti was ad-libbing lines at the end of a jam and I didn’t get exposed for being somewhere I didn’t deserve to be.

At the core of Franti’s music is the idea that every person on the planet deserves to be “happy, healthy and equal.” Throughout the night, he referred to the devolving state of the human race and the growing number of challenges the world is facing.

Franti preached acceptance and encouraged action, using his music as the vehicle. As a multi-racial activist whose organization Do It For The Love brings hope to those who don’t necessarily have any, he embodies everything he speaks about with a palpable level of authenticity.

To end the show, he directed the crowd to wrap arms around shoulders as the band led a singalong to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

It was a fitting finish for a night that fortified a more optimistic outlook on things, as everyone belted out, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”


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