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Taken from Times Union (Nov 19, 2008)

Franti and Spearhead are thought-provoking


Michael Franti & Spearhead

ALBANY — Two acts that don't exactly shy away from saying just what's on their minds showed up at the Palace on Friday night to do just that.

San Francisco's Michael Franti and Spearhead — Carl Young (bass), Dave Shul (guitar), Manas Itiene (drums) and Raleigh Neal (keys) have an uncanny combination of hip hop, funk and reggae that keeps the toes tapping while the socially conscious fare makes you think. In the past, Franti has considered himself somewhat of an underdog politically, but with the historic events of the last few weeks, there was a sense of hope, amazement and gratitude in his tone.

In Albany, the edgy, politically charged, love-versus-the-system vibe had the packed house not only on their feet, but bouncing with hands in the air, for the next two hours. Deadly old-school reggae beats ruled, from "Rude Boys Back In Town" to "Say Hey I Love You."

At one point, a fan crashed the stage, but as she was pulled away, Franti protested and had her returned as she danced around and screamed in bliss.

The covers were perfect, a joyous version "(You Gotta) Walk and Don't Look Back" as well as obviously appropriate "Pass The Dutchie" were high points.

By the time they hit the relentless beat of "A Little Bit Of Riddim," the audience was dancing in sheer delirium. Soon "Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong" was a powerful statement, as was the triumph-over-your-fears allegory of "Never Too Late" and shout out to the planet of "Hey World Remote Control."

The positive vibes in the gyrating crowd were overwhelming, at times as important as the music. Franti may have been an underdog in the past, but his methods are working, and the times they are a changing.

Singer Sherry Anderson came out and sang to tracks, her powerful pipes burned up "Redemption Song," before she settled in with Spearhead.

Orlando's hip hop messengers Solillaquists of Sound did the unheard-of, coming out 20 minutes before scheduled show time (probably to make time for Anderson).

The two married couples; Swamburger and Alexandrah as well as DaVinci and Tonya Combs, offered self-awareness and empowerment themes that hit the spot dead-on.

Soulful singer Alexandrah could move from a sugar sweet to gritty in an instant, her brief reading of "Strange Fruit" was powerful, while DaVinci was a madman on multiple beat machines. Finishing with "Mark It Place," the quartet told the crowd to "quit your job and do something you love."

Yes, we can.

Concert review

MICHAEL FRANTI, SPEARHEAD, Solillaquists of Sound

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Palace Theater, 19 Clinton St., Albany

Length: Spearhead; 2 hours, Solillaquists of Sound 40 minutes.

The crowd: packed house of 1,800 urban hippies.

Highlights: Spearhead's "A Little Bit Of Riddum," "(You Gotta) Walk and Don't Look Back," Solillaquists of Sound's "Mark It Place."


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