Taken from The StarPhoenix (July 1, 2015)
Franti shares the spotlight
by phil tank, The StarPhoenix
Michael Franti and Spearhead play Tuesday night at the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival.
Photograph by: Richard Marjan, The StarPhoenix
Considering the prestige of playing the main stage of the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, Michael Franti seemed to eager to vacate it Tuesday night.
Franti wandered into the capacity crowd of thousands gathered at the Bessborough Gardens so often and for so long, security might have been tempted to send out an all-points bulletin.
You got the feeling he was not going to be satisfied until he had either danced with or high-fived everyone in the audience during his barefoot excursions. He even made it to the patio by the hotel at the farthest point from the TD Mainstage.
Mother nature seemed eager to accommodate the high-energy show put on by Franti and his band Spearhead as the smoky haze that had hung over Saskatoon for several days seemed to dissipate. You could even see an orange moon hovering over the South Saskatchewan River as Franti spread his message of love and social justice during a solid two-hour performance.
The 49-year-old San Francisco native apologized for his voice as he struggled with a cold and at times he was clearly croaking out the words.
“You might notice my voice is a little scratchy,” he said. “I just want to go on record that it’s not the smoke in the air.”
Franti’s eclectic mix of rock, reggae and hip hop found an audience willing to embrace it in much the way Franti urged those in the crowd to give each other a hug.
The entire show had a loose, improvised feel and the audience interaction worked for the most part.
A young girl wowed the crowd by rapping in Franti’s microphone part of the song 11:59 — a song that’s less than four minutes long but could well have threatened 11 minutes and 59 seconds as played by the band Tuesday.
Another attempt to involve the audience by letting a woman squeal unpleasantly into the microphone on stage just made you hope she never needs to rely on singing to support herself.
Franti did not leave his social activism behind either, voicing support for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage, while dedicating another song to those affected by a racially motivated mass murder at a church in Charleston, S.C. He also offered support to those affected by forest fires in Saskatchewan.
He shared the difficulty his family has faced with his teenage son as he struggles with a rare kidney disease and pointed out he is engaged to Saskatoon emergency room nurse Sara Agah.
Most of all, though, he kept moving and he kept everyone else moving. As a newly engaged couple danced onstage to Life is Better With You, Spearhead ended the song with a bongo solo.
One miscalculation was to end the night with snippets of taped music, including Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, while Franti and Spearhead danced and cavorted on stage. After putting so much effort and energy into a show, why end it with someone else’s music?