Taken from Chico Enterprise Record (Feb 26, 2008)
Only Michael Franti can 'Yell Fire!' in a crowded theater
by ALAN SHECKTER - Buzz Editor
Michael Franti (right) performs with
his group, Spearhead, at Chico State
Michael Franti and his band, Spearhead, are known for uniquely fusing reggae, hip-hop, folk and rock, and they've been popular on the touring circuit for years.
But what really sets Franti apart are his lyrics.
In what has become almost an annual local occurrence, Franti and Spearhead filled Chico State University's Bell Memorial Union auditorium on Feb. 19, courtesy of Associated Students.
The charismatic and dreadlocked Franti, a singing guitarist reported to be 6-feet-6-inches tall, was like a pied piper, inspiring casual listeners to rise, dance, and often jump up and down in place like basketball fans at Duke University's Cameron Indoor Stadium.
And while the four-piece act is at its roots a jamming reggae band, Franti delivers his "power to the peaceful" message in simplistic, easy to understand and hard to repudiate lyrics.
From "Yell Fire!," the title track from his 2007 CD, Franti uttered, "Everyone addicted to the same gasoline; everyone addicted to a Technicolor screen, everybody tryin' to get their hands on the same green," before filling the Bic-lighter-lit room with the choral lyric of fed-up rebellion, "Yell Fire!"
Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came during the unifying acoustic performance of "From the East to the West," when the rabid crowd helped Franti sing, "Music's too large for just one station; love is too big for just one nation; and God is too big for just one religion."
Franti's two-hour show, in which he barely stopped for a breath, was marked by more than crowd motivation and stimulation. He hoisted an acoustic guitar and sat on a stool for ballads such as "One Step Closer To You," "All I Want is You" and "Sweet Little Lies."
Playing on a stage festooned with camouflage netting and fabric and in front of a Hindu-themed backdrop accented with capitalist vices — the bold Apple emblem on the keyboard player's Mac stood out noticeably — the four-piece band also offered plenty of cover tunes. While it made perfect sense for the band to give reverence to Bob Marley's "Stir It Up," and UB40's "Red Red Wine" was a natural fit, only Franti would offer the theme to "Sesame Street" in full, rocked-out form. He also performed Sublime's "What I Got."
Franti's performance also included "Time to Go Home, "People in the Middle," "Hey Now Now" and a final encore of "Everybody on a Move," that featured a couple of guest children on stage who helped him end the show.
At one point, Franti struck a cord with the audience when he said, "I went to high school at Davis and they used to joke that the kids who couldn't get into UC Davis went to Chico State. That's why they partied so hard. I didn't get into either one."
Buzz Editor Alan Sheckter can be reached at 896-7771 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the date of the Michael Franti concert. The show took place Feb. 19. Return to corrected sentence.