Subtlety is not a component of Michael Franti’s repertoire.
Unbridled enthusiasm is. So are energy, earnestness and a warm charisma that he spreads among the audience he has inevitably stirred into various levels of glee.
Friday night, before a crowd of nearly 1,000 at Crossroads KC, Franti and his band Spearhead spent two hours preaching bohemian themes of love (universal and romantic), peace, hope and brotherhood and keeping the mood elevated and energized all the while. As usual, he hit the ground running and kept on sprinting, from the first chords of “I Don’t Wanna Go,” the opener, to the final bow that followed “Say Hey (I Love You),” his closer, during which he was joined on stage by a herd of dancing children.
In between, the very long and lean Franti (he’s about 6-foot-6) ventured into the crowd, high-fiving and hugging his fans as he serenaded them. A few times he took perch on a platform situated near the soundboard, calling fans up to join him, in dance, song or an embrace.
Franti’s music is mix of world beat, reggae, ska, hip-hop and folk. He evokes an array of resemblances, some vague, some strong: to Bob Marley, G-Love, Everlast, UB40. When he goes down the ska road, he usually ends up somewhere innocuous -- between Madness and Smash Mouth.
His messages, a mix of platitudes, prayers and simple adages, are often explicit in his songs’ titles: “Do It For the Love”; “Hey, World (Don’t Give Up)”; “Life Is Better With You”; “Hey World (Don’t Give Up).”
He embellished those themes with a few stories. He invited about a dozen fans (mostly women) on stage to sing an dance behind him. They were joined by a devout Franti fan in a wheelchair, an ALS patient, who had just recovered from lung surgery. His family joined him on stage, and they all sang along to “Do It For Love.” Later, Franti talked about his tour of the Middle East during the second war in Iraq, where he sang citizens in the street and to soldiers.
He tossed in some covers or snatches of them, including Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”; Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” which prompted a loud sing-along; U2’s “One”; and Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister.”
The finale was a bubbly goodbye pop-rap song with a silver lining: “I say, hey, I be gone today / But I be back around the way.” Surrounded by a tide of children that made him look even taller, Franti turned the microphone over to one young girl who sang as demonstratively as he did, then showed him a dance move that he mimicked till the song came to a close. Even his cute moments aren’t subtle.Set list
I Don’t Wanna Go; Yes I Will; Stay Human (All the Freaky People); Yell Fire; Do It For the Love; The Sound of Sunshine; One Step Closer to You; Life Is Better With You; Gangsta Girl; Hey World (Don’t Give Up); Bomb the World; All People; Say Goodbye; Hey Hey Hey; Let It Go; I’m Alive; Long Ride Home; Say Hey (I Love You).