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Taken from OregonLive (December 12, 2010)

Concert review: Michael Franti and Spearhead offer effervescent jumble, Doobie Brothers lean on classics during Jingle Bell Jam

by Robert Ham, Special to The Oregonian

Michael FrantiMichael Franti certainly has come a long way in 20 years. The muscular gent with long dreads and an infectious, ever-present smile on stage at the Roseland Theater on Friday night is a far cry from the dour looking agitprop rapper found on the cover of the album by his early '90s duo The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.

In his 16th year fronting the band Spearhead, Franti's political leanings haven't shifted, but the music he plays has. He's put aside the clanging industrial noise that marked his early efforts and replaced it with a free-spirited jumble of reggae, funk, jam band rock and sun-dappled pop.

The effervescent tone of the music fit comfortably with the celebratory vibe of the evening. Spearhead headlined KINK's Jingle Bell Jam, a sold-out event fundraiser for the Portland Police's Sunshine Division. It was also the last date of Spearhead's four-month tour in support of its most recent album, "The Sound Of Sunshine."

Franti and his six-piece band obviously were looking forward to heading home to the Bay Area for the holidays. Their 90-minute set had a tangible elasticity, with loose rhythms and slight slip-ups greeted with shrugs and grins from the offenders.

No one in the audience paid much attention to these little stumbles. They were too busy dancing with Franti as he bounced through the crowd or grinning madly while he stood in the balcony serenading the reserved seats with his anthem of self-reliance, "Hey Hey Hey."

While Franti broke free from his past, opening act The Doobie Brothers had no trouble looking backward, peppering their set with a dozen classics from their 35-year history. They knew that's just what the crowd wanted to hear, too, assuring the audience midway through the set that they would only be playing three songs off of their new album, "World Gone Mad."

With those out of the way, the fans could concentrate and sing along to their impressively robust and faithful renditions of well known hits like "Listen to the Music, "Takin' It to the Streets," and "China Grove."


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