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Taken from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Nov 14, 2006)

Short Takes: Reggae rockers call for good will

Michael Franti and Spearhead

by Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette pop music

Michael FrantiIn the immortal words of David Lee Roth, "you might as well jump."

Arriving on stage at Mr. Small's Sunday night, Michael Franti implored the packed house to pogo, even as he was singing about the sacrifice of war with the mantra, "Don't take our boys away, no/don't take our girls away, no."

Franti, a left-wing provocateur from way back, realizes that to get into people's minds, you might need to move their bodies. Franti and Spearhead grooved a crowd, which seemed pre-pumped from a Steelers win, with lively set of rock-reggae that sounded a call of can't-we-all-just-get-along?

Franti, a presence at 6-foot-6 with swinging dreads, played about half of "Yell Fire!," a vibrant new CD recorded after he toured the war zones in Baghdad and Gaza. He came back with songs that, rather than point fingers, speak to our common humanity, like "East to the West," on which he emphasized the line, "God is too big for just one religion."

The sound ranged from the delicate acoustics of "Sweet Little Lies" to "Yell Fire," with its stabbing electric guitar, to the hip-hop-funk of "We Don't Stop," which rips the beat right off The Clash's "The Magnificent Seven." Spearhead was supple and playful, along the way breaking into Sublime's "What I Got," Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and even a reggae take on the theme from "Sesame Street."

Whether he's playing to folks in Palestine or a packed club in Millvale, Franti has a magic touch for making people dance and smile. Should the government ever need a goodwill ambassador, he might be their man. Till then, it's power to the peaceful.


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