Love At First Sight With Michael Franti & Spearhead & Ziggy Marley
by terri sapp
Photographs by Leah Yetter
© Concert Sutra, All Rights Reserved
Do I believe in love at first sight? Well, not usually…until I had my first “exSpearience” with Michael Franti and Spearhead on St. Valentine’s Day followed by Ziggy Marley at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Cupid must have been in full force all night, because I flew out of SCAD pulling arrows out of my heart.
From the time Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage to Ziggy Marley’s grand finale, I felt everything from political consciousness to elated happiness to love to an overwhelming urge to hug a beautiful dready man. Mr. Franti must have felt the emotional overload in the house, because he kept asking, “How you feelin’?” (at least 23 times).
Michael Franti and Spearhead opened their show with “Soulshine” from “Stay Human.” It was a wonderfully upbeat start for the very beginning of my journey into Michael Franti and Spearhead. The percussionist, Roberto Quintana, stated this one off right. Just to ease right into one of their newest tracks, “What I Be” from their newest release, “Everyone Deserves Music.” What a fun song! Michael Franti has a wonderful voice, both inside and out. The harmonies are pure and the beat bounces the crowd. I love self-realizing songs. “Well, well, well.”
The third song “Pray for Grace” also from “Everyone Deserves Music” was the one that really won my ear. It burst out with a strong reggae beat, “why must I feel like this today?,” and crowd participation. I ask myself that quite often. This song rocks. The drummer, Manas Itiene, and bass player, Carl Young stole the beat of my heart on “Grace,” as did the harmonies that I didn’t quite understand at first, since there wasn’t a woman in sight. This was the first that I heard the falsettos flowing from Mr. Itiene (from what I could tell), even ending with a bit of beatbox.
Then during a break, wherein the band broke into a tease of Bob Marley’s “Mellow Mood,” Michael Franti said that this was their first time playing in Savannah, and that some folks had told him to “forget about Atlanta” because the people of Savannah love music. Well, as someone from Atlanta who was in the audience that night, I hope that is not the case, and that we (in Atlanta) see them come around soon. Onto “People in Da Middle,” which is a dirty reggae beat with more of the best harmonies from Itiene on drums, rockin’ percussion from Quintana, and a guitar solo from Dave Shul that seemed to sing itself. This song from Spearhead’s album “Home” is another that makes it impossible to pick a favorite from these guys.
The title track from “Everyone Deserves Music” was next on the list. The ensemble of the musicians really stands out here, because not one sticks out more than the other, and they are all playing their hearts out. I am sure you can gather from the title of the song what the theme is…I still cannot get over the falsettos coming out of the drummer whois hidden behind a huge stack of drums back there! We couldn’t even see him, and we were in the very front! WE WANT TO SEE YOU, MANAS!
Ok, so when the boys went into the title track of their previous album, “Stay Human,” it got a little freaky (and a little Julie Andrews from Itiene)! Bring on the funk! Here it is. Shul on guitar funked me up, while Anthony on piano jazzed up the place. Anthony Romeselli (not sure of spelling) shined from a very classic piano to the organ. Back to Shul playing and singing his guitar solo simultaneously, how fabulous is that? This guy can jam! Then comes the bass solo, man, this is the song to really showcase each musician’s talents. By this time I wanted to hug the bass player, Carl Young. He seemed to be having so much fun. I don’t think this was the first time he hammed it up, either. Young is a performer everyone likes to watch! Especially when he stepped up during the breakdown of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” and showed us all what he is made of. Franti mixed it up with a vocal tease of “What a Wonderful World” even singing it in Louis Armstrong’s raspy voice.
From extremely high energy to “One Minute’s All I Need,” which is very soft and slow. The lyrics are quick and to the point, “One minute’s all I need to say these things to you.” I think that is all it lasted, too! “We don’t Stop” boomed out a political message about all the different wars going on in the world. This statement is one that I think everyone should hear, which is another from the newest album. At times, Franti rhymes and voice made me think of G-Love and Special Sauce, which made me super happy. If I had to pin point the moment where Franti grabbed my attention most, it would be with the words in this song. “They got a war for oil, war for gold, war for money and a war for souls, a war on terror, war on drugs, war on kindness, a war on hugs, war on birds, and a war on bees, they got a war on hippies trying to save the trees, war with jets, war with missiles, war with high seated government officials, a wall street war on high finance, a war on people who just love to dance, war on music, a war on speech, war on teachers and the things they teach, a war for the last five hundred years…” Some of my favorite words of the night! Franti and Spearhead just keep it coming!
Keeping with the anti-war sentiment, “Bomb the World” from the newest album, brought more of the same lyrics. Franti makes the statement during this one that he loves traveling now, during the Election year, and I suspect that is so that he can sing these songs and bring these poignant lyrics to all of the ears that might not otherwise hear them. “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb it into peace.” Franti suggests we, as a nation, should spend all of this war money on “the war on illiteracy, the war on poverty in this country, the war on homelessness in this country. Instead of fighting a war on terrorism, fight a war on militarism.” How could anything less thought out come from someone with the soulful eyes that Franti has? His soul is pure, and it is apparent to all who come in contact with him, I suspect. “Power to the peaceful!”
“Sometimes” is a fun song that has one of the best lines ever, “Only a rat could win a rat race.” How clever. And how true.
Out of nowhere, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana was teased, into a tease of reggae classic, “Ring the Alarm” by Tenor Saw, into a tease of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”! The crowd is instructed to get down to the ground! The next was originated when researchers were sent to find the two most common words from all over the world! They came up with “Taxi, Radio.” This song is so much fun with a fast calypso style beat. I could swear I heard some horns even!
To top off this Valentine’s exspearience with Franti and Spearhead, a sweet song dedicated to all friends and family who have ever drifted apart and need to come back together, “Never Too Late.” I love these words. “And it’s never too late to start the day over. It’s never too late to pick up the phone and call me. Never too late to lay your head down on my shoulder. Never too late to come on home.”
Once Franti and Spearhead left the stage, Michael Franti stayed around to greet anyone who wanted to speak with him! While the workers changed the stage to accommodate Ziggy Marley, Franti and a couple others in the band stepped down into the crowd to mingle! For a full photo album of this show, go to http://www.concertsutra.com/spear0204/index.htm
This evening was filled with excitement up to the point that Ziggy Marley came out to perform and continued straight through to the end! Before Ziggy and his crew even hit the stage, I had the name of Ziggy’s first solo album figured out, “Dragonfly.” Apparent from the Dragonfly flag flying high. Once He and the band arrived, Ziggy’s Dragonfly belt buckle, and his wonderful woman singer’s Dragonfly shirt and necklace helped confirm my suspicions. My breath was taken away when I saw Ziggy Marley and was reminded by everything about him that I was in the same room with my favorite man ever, Bob Marley’s DNA!!!
Ziggy Marley has managed to mesh together the classic reggae sound that he was undoubtedly brought up on with his own sound and political message, while still keeping with the timelessness set forth in his Father’s music. “Looking you will find you will be fine” is one of the many timeless messages that Ziggy sings with the cutest back up singer/dancer ever! I wish I knew her name! The guitar and harmonies rival those of the best, like Paul Simon even on one of the first songs. A couple of times I felt myself staring up at the stage between the voice and moves of Ziggy’s singer/dancer.
“Wake Up and Live” was truly awesome. I can’t resist a kinky reggae beat! Bass, drums, guitar, all working together to achieve that Rasta energy all its own. WOW, Ziggy’s drummer means business! He hits hard and fast! “Get out” showed Ziggy with an almost hard rock Hendrix reggae vibe. During this song, the guitar player played a crazy silver acoustic looking guitar. After this show, I can’t wait to purchase “Dragonfly,” and hear what Ziggy put together in the year he was solo in the studio! From what I heard, there could be a fourth Grammy in his future. If the Academy is truly listening, that is. “Justice” was another classic reggae beat with a very political message. What a perfect place to tease “Get Up, Stand Up!” Ziggy is truly the spitting image of his Father! I Love them both!
The moment I heard the first note of “Jammin’” I was coming out of my body! Seeing Ziggy singing, dancing, jumping, and moving immediately took me to Jamaica back in the day, before my time, at least, to a place I dream about. A Bob Marley concert! The only other moments such as this were the times I saw the Legendary Wailers, but this is so different! There is something very special about Ziggy singing Bob’s music. And watching Ziggy “There is a rainbow in the sky all the time!”
“Be true to myself,” “the height of creation (higher vibration),” “These be the good old days,” were some of the themes coming from Ziggy’s music. Positive vibrations were everywhere on his stage.
Then, Ziggy asks the age-old question, “Is this Love?” Both Leah and I say, YES!!!! “I wanna love ya. I wanna love and treat you right. I wanna love ya, everyday and every night.” This was a truly blissful way to spend February 14, 2004! Ziggy Marley is my shining star, and something tells me he won’t go away.
Another old favorite, “Concrete Jungle” I thought was an appropriate choice. “No chains around my feet, but I’m not free. I know I am bound here in captivity.” “Higher Vibration” sounded like it could have been something Beck could have worked on during his later, more mellow and experimental years. I really feel Ziggy’s experimentation with his music. He is making unique music to his own soul and being, while celebrating where he came from. Which leads us into “Africa Unite.” “We are the children of the Rasta man. We are the children of the Higher man.” I really believe that he is the son of a Higher man! To check out the full coverage shots the fabulous Ms. Yetter took, go to: http://www.concertsutra.com/ziggy0204/index.htm
By the end of Ziggy’s show, Michael Franti joined us in the audience, enjoying the music with us. As we were leaving, Mr. Franti continued to hang out and my urge to hug a beautiful dready man was fulfilled. What a perfect end to a perfect night!
For more information on Michael Franti & Spearhead, visit http://www.spearheadvibrations.com/ Also, check out their latest release, “Everyone Deserves Music.” For more information on Ziggy Marley, visit http://www.ziggymarley.com/ Ziggy’s first solo album, “Dragonfly” is a must have!