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Taken from Hartford Courant (November 05, 2010)

Michael Franti Spreads Sunshine in Northampton

by SHERYL HUNTER, Special to The Courant

Michael FrantiMichael Franti played the first of a two-night run at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Monday and his good-time vibe comes as no surprise considering that the singer is touring in support of his new album, "The Sound of Sunshine," a collection of upbeat songs about love and gratitude.

It is a switch from the politically charged tunes that dominated his earlier work, but Franti's life has changed

Last year, when Franti scored a huge hit with the feel good anthem "Say Hey (I Love You)," he also experienced a near-fatal bout with appendicitis, which gave him a newfound appreciation for life and the desire to make his fans feel good.

And the crowd was certainly feeling good as Franti and his capable band, Spearhead, played a nearly two-hour show of their reggae, folk, and pop mix that had the audience hooked from the opening grooves of "Love Don't Wait."

The dreadlocked, bare-footed singer was a constant blur of motion on stage, dancing, jumping up and down and waving his arms to the music, while directing the audience to do the same.

The energy never waned as Franti played most of the new disc, along with a few other songs from his recent releases. The San Francisco-based musician frantically strummed his guitar as bassist Carl Young and drummer Manas Itiene created a powerful backbeat while the crowd sang the infectious chorus to "The Sound of Sunshine." He brought audience members onstage to move against the hip-hop beats of "Shake It" and later sneaked up into the balcony to sing the uplifting ballad "Hey Hey Hey."

Franti rested only briefly as he sat on a stool to sing "Hey World" while Itiene accompanied on bongos.

Franti joyfully announced that his hometown team, the Giants, had won the World Series, yet it seemed odd that, given his history as an activist, he didn't mention the next day's critical elections. Even a song like "Yell Fire" lost its angry edge as Franti sang it while making his way through the adoring crowd that crammed the front of the stage.

But this show was a party, and guitarists J. Bowman and Dave Shul helped keep it going as they switched off on lead-guitar lines and provided "'ll be Waiting" with an anthemic U2 quality. Franti wound the night down with a new Jack Johnson-styled acoustic rocker, "A Long as You Love Somebody."

Franti briefly talked about Soles4Souls, an organization he works with that provides shoes to countries in need, as he gathered a group of children and audience members older than 60 for the finale, a rousing group sing-along of "Say Hey, ( I Love You).


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