Reggae/rock/fusion singer Michael Franti and his band, Spearhead, delivered a scorching 110-minute set for a sold-out Meijer Gardens crowd Sunday amid high temps and even higher spirits.
A Michael Franti live performance is something of a salve for the soul.
The musician/activist’s relentless compassion, empathy and optimism are infectious. It’s scientifically* proven that one cannot leave a Franti show without having been uplifted, inspired or otherwise cheered in some manner. (*Seriously. It’s science.)
Sunday night’s sold-out Franti and Spearhead performance at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park followed the same tried-and-true formula the singer and his band have favored for the most recent handful of consecutive years he has visited the popular outdoor venue, for which he proclaims a deep fondness.
Franti — who stepped in to fill an open date left when an ailing Huey Lewis had to pull himself from the schedule — delivered most of his greatest hits Sunday evening, both musically-speaking and performance-wise. This included:
• Getting (and keeping) nearly all of the audience on its feet for the duration of the evening.
• Bringing kids from the audience on stage to join in songs like “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You).”
• Heading out onto the hillside multiple times to sing amongst his admirers, trading high fives, hugs and dance moves with adoring fans, including an 87-year-old woman who told Franti that listening to his music served as her fountain of youth.
• Sweet surprises, like allowing a couple on stage so that the man could (successfully) propose to his date.
A philosophical take on how to cope with the many sad and painful things life brings, including a thoughtful tribute to the late chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain, who recently died from suicide, and whom Franti considered a personal hero because of his adventurous and egalitarian spirit.
A wide-ranging 18-song set featured familiar favorites, such as “Life Is Better With You” and “Good to Be Alive Today,” plus more recent material, including a shiny new number debuted Sunday night for a West Michigan audience. (“You guys are going to be the first people to hear this,” Franti said of the song, which is so fresh, its name is not easily Google-able.)
A welcome new element of this tour is the addition of 19-year-old singer-songwriter Victoria Canal, who, let’s be blunt, has one helluva voice. Franti discovered the young artist via Instagram and asked her to join him in Nashville to co-write and record a song. That led to the talented multi-instrumentalist joining Franti and Spearhead on tour.
The college student/musician played a 20-minute opening set and later joined the band to offer accompanying vocals for several songs, invigorating an already lively dynamic. It will be interesting to see how she grows and develops as an artist, particularly if she’s able to continue honing her craft with mentors like Franti.
Reggae act HIRIE also helped to warm up the sun-drenched crowd, with a bouncy 45-minute set of danceable, summer-ready tunes.
PHOTO GALLERY: Michael Franti & Spearhead, HIRIE, Victoria Canal at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Derek Ketchum
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC