For a guy who likes to sing about death and dying, Michael Franti sure puts on a life-affirming show.
Performing Tuesday night at Crossroads KC, Franti and his band, Spearhead, took a crowd of about 1,200 on a long, joyous voyage, all the while preaching about the glory of love and the splendor of life.
Franti and his band were in town as part of the Soulshine Tour, which featured four other acts: Trevor Hall, a reggae/folk songwriter; Brett Dennen, an indie-pop/rock singer/songwriter, Soja, an eight-piece reggae band; and Sonna Rele, a fledgling R&B/pop singer/songwriter from London.
The openers spent almost three hours warming up the crowd with a mix of styles, though reggae was the most abundant. Dennen, who performed second, played to a enthusiastic crowd that was familiar with several of his fetching, catchy tunes, including “Surprise, Surprise (Matter of Time),” “Out of My Head,” “Ain’t No Reason” and “When We Were Young.”
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Soja followed his set with an hour’s worth of percussive, horn-fed reggae/soul tunes, including “You and Me,” which featured guest vocals from Dennen. Rele, joined by two members of Spearhead, played two songs between Soja and Franti and, like the rest of the openers, reappeared during Franti’s set.
Franti is a tall, lanky, dreadlocked and kinetic performer who gets his crowds involved like few other performers. He opened with “I Don’t Wanna Go,” which set the festive mood for the rest of the show: “I’m gonna die, whoa, I’m gonna die but it won’t be tonight / But if I did, whoa, I would have lived through the best-ever night of my life.”
If it wasn’t the best night of everyone’s life, it could be in contention for the best of the month. Or the summer.
Throughout the show, Franti stirred the crowd into bursts of dancing and singing and punching large, inflated balls around the place. For a few songs, he took a perch on a small platform toward the back of the venue, bringing fans up on it to dance and embrace him. As he headed back toward the main stage, he stopped to hula-hoop with one fan for several seconds and then square dance with another. He also led his band and the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” serenade to a woman in the crowd, who was brought onstage for the occasion.
His set list included “Stay Human (All the Freaky People),” which included a few measures of Sly Stone’s “Family Affair,” “All I Want Is You,” “Light Up Ya Lighter,” “Life Is Better With You,” “Let It Go” and “11:59,” which reiterated his opening theme: “It’s eleven fifty-nine and fifty-nine seconds / If I’m gonna die tonight, I want heaven … with you.”
All night, the stage was a hive of activity. For “Say Hey (I Love You),” it was filled with the opening performers and a host of children who danced and sang along.
He closed with “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like),” another joyous, uplifting anthem about love that prompted more dancing, singing and arm-waving from a crowd that surrendered to its theme: “All I wanna do is be with you / Life sounds like / I’m alive, I’m alive.”
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