Michael Franti & Spearhead, Dojo Rise @ The Gov, Adelaide 5/4/2023

The annual Byron Bay Bluesfest brings the best of overseas (and Australian) artists each year to Australia and we here in Adelaide get some of the bands via Bluesfest touring. Michael Franti maybe playing the big stages of the Bluesfest, but this evening we held him in high esteem at The Gov.

Local band, Dojo Rise, “all the way from Aldinga, down south” opened for Michael Franti, holding the spot in high reverence, as Franti has been an influence for the band for years. With their fusion of reggae/soul and modern roots, the band had the audience in the palm of their hand from the opening number, A Little Love. The crowd packed the front of the stage, something unusual for supporting bands at Gov gigs, taking in the sounds of The Hump and a new song in Dreams. Vocalist and bass player Adam told us this gig was “a dream come true”. Finishing with Let You Know, the short seven song set went by in a flash. Dojo Rising have been touring hard lately, all around Australia. Catch them soon if you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Michael Franti & Spearhead are touring in support of Franti’s new album, Follow Your Heart, his twelfth studio album. He has played sold out venues across North America in 2022/23, including the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado in the lead up to playing a capacity crowd at The Gov.

Opening with How We Living, the music was immediately infectious with its upbeat groove. Michael was walking the stage, high fiving the front row and asking everyone to raise their hands in the air, which we did with exuberance. When Michael sings “All I wanna do is be with you” during the song I’m Alive, you know he really means it.

For the Billboard number one song Sound of Sunshine, a lady and two children were bought up on stage to help sing the song, with the two children knowing the words of the song. Before the funk/rap of Stay Human, Michael took his shirt off to reveal a T-Shirt with “Happy is the New Sexy” emblazoned across it. If this saying is true, the whole of The Gov was a sexy place to be.

After the first six songs, things slowed down with Life is Better With You, with just an acoustic guitar accompaniment at the start, before the band kicked in, with the guitarist and bass player heading into the audience, still playing their instruments. Baby Let Your Soulshine, My Kinda Party, Big Big Love all blended into one with Michael taking his turn of heading in the crowd, after dancing with a security guard on stage. At this point I was not sure who was having the most fun, Michael Franti or the audience.

During a song for his dad, People Need People, who he lost during covid, you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Lost But Never Alone, followed, a song Michael says they have never played live before but sounded like it had been played a hundred times before.

Once again, during Follow Your Heart, Michael headed in to the crowd and over the next three or four songs ventured to all four corners of The Gov main room. At the start of I Got You Michael asked “It’s a beautiful night, Ya?” Yes, it is!

Back on-stage, Michael told us he put out an anti-gun message on social media after the last school shooting in the USA and lost a thousand followers within five minutes. Did he care? No, and the statement was a beautiful segue into the powerful message song Brighter Day.

The set closed with Say Hey (I Love You) with Michael bringing seven young children from the audience on stage to dance to the song. After the children left the stage, he bought the tone down for the finale, Say Hey (I Love You) (Reprise), which morphed into U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For.

After two and a half hours and with John Lennon’s Imagine sounding out through the speakers, the band stayed on stage and joined in with the audience singing the song. Michael Franti then went out into the audience for selfies and hugs and the band stayed on stage talking to people in front of the stage. We left about twenty minutes later and they were all still there.

This was a high energy show and with well over twenty songs in the two and a half hours, the music never stopped. Michael Franti also never stopped moving in that time and the audience went on the ride with him, through every “raise your hands”, “Clap your hands”, dance with the person next to you”.

If there was a sound for happy, uplifting music this would be it. In these troubled times of Ukraine, Guns, Trump and the cost-of-living issues, we need more music like this. I cannot remember when I was last at a show as upbeat as this one.

Every now and then a really special show comes along – this was one of them.

Live Review By Geoff Jenke.

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