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Michael "Obama Marley Harper" Franti & Spearhead @ Metropolis (Nov. 5)

Posted by Goran / November 7, 2008

Franti.jpgThe Michael Franti and Spearhead show at Metropolis last Wednesday was not advertised as an official Obama victory celebration, but it very well should have been. It made me wonder how many other artists and performers were as gratuitously capitalizing on the election results to infuse some hype into their mediocre concerts. The Solillaquists of Sound did their best to warm up the crowd and set the stage for Franti and his backing band. This Floridian hip-hop outfit displayed a considerable level of talent, but quickly became yet another rap group I didn't need to see or hear.

Mr. Franti could not hide his Obama obsession for the duration of the performance. He simply could not stop talking about him. It began as touching and inspiring. His monologues highlighted the importance of Obama's win. Franti lauded the President-elect's victory speech while adding his Barrack-esque narrative anecdotes. He demonstrated his devoted activism in the areas of peace and social justice as he relived the horrors of past two presidential terms. I have to admit that it got to me at first, but after about an hour of the same old same old, the repetitive props to Obama began to feel as contrived as Franti's unimaginative songwriting or second-rate M.C.-ing.

Shane Murphy.jpg

Although the Mirror gave Franti's new album, "All Rebel Rockers" a very meager review, they hyped up his live show. Having enjoyed some of his past collaborations, such as 1 Giant Leap, I thought I'd give the man a try. The crowd was definitely feeling Franti and Spearhead as movement and chanting emanated from the pit. Spearhead reflected their tightness and studio band professionalism by means of the rich and full-bodied sound supporting Mr. Franti's vocal stylings. They hopped from genre to genre with effortless precision. However, the combination of folk, rock, funk, and reggae made Spearhead seem like a cross between Bedouin Soundclash and Mr. Harper's Innocent Criminals.

Thinking I was actually at a Ben Harper show, I kept expecting Franti to bust out in one of those songs that haven't been cool since you were in summer camp, like "Steal My Kisses" or "Burn One Down". Although much of his music resembled Harper's, it was clearly of a lower grade. Crappy and overly repetitive choruses generally continued for at least 5 minutes longer than they ought to have. Franti clearly possesses some talent and creativity. Unfortunately, he channels it almost exclusively into emulating others. I felt an urge to tell him that he was neither Bob Marley nor Ben Harper, but I was afraid to break his heart. Heck, he probably wouldn't have believed me anyway.

After one encore, Franti was joined on stage by the Solillaquists of Sound to send the crowd off on an over-emphasized Obama note; a song they claimed to have written earlier that day. I was skeptical. The chorus, "It's been so long now / But we all come together now / Barrack Obama!" was surely written by kindergartener. Overall, this crap show made me wish I was in a dingy Irish pub in NDG (Honey Martin's), where local musical genius, Shane Murphy, had repeatedly rocked my socks over the past few years. So if you'd like to see what Mr. Franti wishes he could do, please join me at Brutopia tonight for the Shane Murphy Trio. It's free and it's dope.

Photos from myspaces of Michael Franti & Spearhead and Shane Murphy Trio



Jer / November 9, 2008 at 06:18 pm
Man. I'm glad somebody finally wrote this. I saw a bit of their show this summer in Ottawa, and the crowd was freaking out cuz of how good it was. I didn't understand the attraction at all (for all the reasons you mention and more). I felt like I was from another planet for being bored with it.
frida / November 10, 2008 at 08:38 pm
You just don't want to feel it. It's safer to be skeptic. Michael Franti and Spearhead put out a great live show. But who am I? I love genre- hopping musicians with a positive politically charged message. Silly me.
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