Michael Franti captivated a sold-out crowd at Meijer Gardens, the same evening that Alejandro Escovedo told musical tales at Midtown amid an illustrious career. Review, photos.
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Different modus operandi, different audiences, the same feel-good outcome.
Thursday night’s Grand Rapids concert lineup ranged from a sold-out, celebratory affair directed by the always-upbeat Michael Franti & Spearhead at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to an intimate solo show about eight miles away by the iconic Alejandro Escovedo at Grand Rapids’ Midtown.
And while their approach was a little different, both artists engaged fans by strolling into the audience to get up-close-and-personal with listeners.
Local Spins was at both concerts to give readers a snapshot of a sumptuous evening of live music in West Michigan.
MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO MEIJER GARDENS
As Michael Franti put it, “Today would be a very good day for a good day.”
The singer/activist/filmmaker/entrepreneur is renowned for his good vibes, solid musicianship and man-of-the-people approach to live performance. His sold-out Thursday evening show at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park was no exception.
In spite of chillier-than-usual temps and a smattering of drizzle, a packed house soaked up everything that was good about this beloved Meijer Gardens staple, including his well-worn hits, strolling-amongst-the-fans banter and infectiously positive outlook.
Franti, 57, and his crew delivered roughly 19 songs in a reliably upbeat, efficient (but not rushed) set that included many familiar favorites, such as “I’m Alive [Life Sounds Like],” “The Sound of Sunshine,” and show closer “Say Hey [I Love You].”
Not allowing colder temps and occasionally “misty” weather to stand in the way, Franti pulled every familiar trick out of the bag, strolling up the hill to mix companionably with his audience, inviting kids on stage to share the mic and encouraging audience participation by way of jumping, hand waving, dancing, hugging and holding hands.
Seattle-based The Dip opened up the evening with a lively, engaging set of jazz-infused funk and surprisingly sultry vocals. Their appearance later on stage with Franti and crew during “Life is Better With You” was a highlight of the evening. – TBW
Next up in the Meijer Gardens’ Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts series: Tegan and Sara with Dragonette at 7 p.m. Friday (June 16). Tickets online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Michael Franti & Spearhead at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Steve Baran
ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO’S TALES OF A ROCK SURVIVOR
Even Alejandro Escovedo’s long trip from Austin to Grand Rapids this week proved to be a tale-inspiring, hair-raising adventure.
Commandeering an RV for the first time with his wife, Nancy, and their two dogs, Escovedo’s cross-country trek didn’t get far before encountering a storm in East Texas that produced hail and lightning, with the expedition just missing “a tornado by minutes.”
A tad late, but unscathed, Escovedo uncorked that anecdote and many more from a lifetime of rock ‘n’ roll escapades and capers during a cozy evening of wide-ranging music at Midtown in downtown Grand Rapids on Thursday night.
From an opening tribute to his father, “Wave,” to his unplugged, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the-audience rendition of Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople’s “I Wish I Was Your Mother” to his all-electric, punk-fueled “Chelsea Hotel ’78” to his poignant “Always a Friend,” Escovedo led fans on a revealing, down-to-earth retrospective of a 45-year career.
Along the way, he interjected humor, recollections of encountering discrimination for the first time, fond reminiscences of band camaraderie and a plea for fans to assist New York rock musician and longtime friend Jesse Malin, who recently suffered a rare spinal stroke. Fans can donate to help with his medical expenses online via the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund here.
“The rock ‘n’ roll life has taken me many, many places,” Escovedo, 72, told the audience early on.
Fortunately, those on hand Thursday night got to relive much of that journey first-hand. – JS
Escovedo also plays as part of a trio at The Acorn in Three Oaks tonight (June 16) for the 2023 Acorn Music Festival, with Shemekia Copeland, The Bergamot, Buddy Pearson 3 and Nikki Morgan also playing Friday’s show. Details, tickets online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Alejandro Escovedo at Midtown
Photos by Joshua Tufts