While the world may be going to hell, last night inside the warm confines of the packed Calvin Theater, all was well–not just well, but jumping up and down fantastic. Michael Franti brought a love for his audience right down front, up into the balcony, and dragged dozens of his faithful followers up on stage for hugs and dancing. He even gave two fans guitars to ‘play’ while his solid axeman Dave Shul cranked out a fierce solo.
Many artists sing about love; love they’ve lost, or love of women or men we never know. Franti’s love is for the world, for the causes he supports, and most of all, for the audience before him. He reaches out and touches as many as he can, he gives hugs like he means it. His songs express a revelation about what’s meaningful in his life, and the groove goes on as long as he feels it. As a survivor of a near death hospital experience, he cherishes each day, and it all felt inspiring as we moved to the infectious reggae beats.
It was a two-hour nonstop set. He starts out on a solo guitar and inevitably it morphs into a bass and drum driven dance beat. Nobody could count the number of times Franti exhorted the crowd to get up, jump, and put your hands together. Up in front of the seats people claimed their dancing spots early, one man held his young daughter on his shoulders for the whole two-hour show. Ouch!
Then Franti did something I’ve never seen before, he began polling the audience about how many years they’d been married. First one year, then five, ten, and finally, a tiny senior citizen in a red dress who claimed the prize with 40 plus years. “I think everyone, no matter who and no matter what, should be able to get married,” the singer said, to a roar of applause.
After the encore that brought some of Franti’s youngest fans up on stage, and after the show was over, you could see him hugging his bandmates. He’s got a lot of love for the world, for his mates, and last night everyone at the Calvin felt that love from the passionate Franti.