It is easy to be cynical about Michael Franti’s relentless ‘one love’ positivity, but his continually happy showmanship and clear, unashamed desire to be crowd pleasing is ultimately winning.

Performing the minor miracle of sounding good in the under amplified cavern of Koko, there is an impressive reproduction of his studio sound considering he is backed by only four musicians. There may not be anything hugely original about the pop-reggae on show but it is done with real flair and clear love for the sound. Each band member knows what they are supposed to be doing exactly and does it with a smooth efficiently.

But while the band are important they are not really what everyone has come to see. This may technically be a ‘Michael Franti & Spearhead’ show but it is always really about him and he whips the crowd up to every tune.

From a song that consists mainly of saying hello in six languages, via a huge amount of call and response, diverting briefly into classic covers like the Fu Schnickers’ ‘Ring the Alarm’ and ‘Pass the Dutchie’ there isn’t a moment that isn’t well received.

There also isn’t a moment that is in the slightest bit threatening. Even his political songs and occasional exhortations to bring the troops home sound somehow as if they are caveated with a polite "if it is not too much trouble."

This is not to doubt his conviction or his passion. It is just that Franti seems so nice. It is almost impossible to imagine him actually getting angry. Franti is the rebel, roots rocker almost anyone could take home to meet their parents.

In anyone else the constant happy, hippy vibes would grow tiresome after ten minutes. Somehow though at the end of the gig – as he clambers into the crowd to shake hands and lead a Bob Marley sing along it would take a truly miserablist person not to admit they’d had a good time the whole time.












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Commenting On: KOKO, London, 21/8/2008 - Michael Franti and Spearhead








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