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Taken from This is London (Dec 06, 2006)

Everybody's invited to Franti's fun party

Shepherd's Bush Empire

by Stevie Chick, London Lite

Michael Franti
Inspirational: Michael Franti

Fifteen years ago, Michael Franti's Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy tore up stages with chainsaws and found an audience that wanted politics and polysyllables with its poly-rhythms.

On the brink of subversive stardom, however, Franti split Hiphoprisy and formed the ever-evolving Spearhead, eschewing the sawtooth abrasion and embracing the funk and soul he grew up on, writing new songs from a more hopeful, positive perspective.

One thing is consistent, however, and that is that Franti knows how to entertain, dropping snatches of the Sesame Street theme into the grooves, his group playing like the crowdpleasing festival veterans they are.

They gleefully zig-zagged between hip hop's mosaic of styles, segueing from dancefloor funk to heavy dub to righteous rock to bustling afrobeat.

And their dreadlocked, basketballplayer-tall frontman wore his inspirations well, conjuring the sharp soul of Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder and soaking up the admiration of a crowd for whom he is an inspirational figure in the lineage of Bob Marley. Certainly, Franti displayed a seductive charisma, an undimmable optimism that made one feel like a grinch if you didn't wave your hands in the air when he asked; such cynics were very much in the minority last night.

"Everybody deserves music," ran one of tonight's infectious, ecstatic chants and Franti's music - warm and passionate and soulfully driven - is the music the people deserve. Everyone's invited to this party, and the uplift factor is guaranteed.

Having seen Mikey and Spearhead numerous times over the years, this gig was really special, almost spiritual. Can't pinpoint the reason. He has so much charisma and the enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment the band get from performing is a totally uplifting experience. Miss him at your peril.

- Wendy, Brighton, UK


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