He’s a 6ft plus beanpole with dreads, grinning and bearing an infectious calm, a radical activist dripping irresistible charm and charisma. Tonight, with a pared-down version of [a]Spearhead[/a] in tow, Michael Franti‘s gonna chat about politics, revisit a few old favourites, and show us the new songs he’s been cooking up during [a]Spearhead[/a]’s recent hiatus.
Elemental jazz funk replaces the usual, full-on hip-hop-soul-funk party orchestra. It’s hip-hop, sure, but only in the crucial connection between Michael and his audience. This is just the latest step in a career which has seen Franti progress from pitting his message against the medium; no longer all trash-can clatter, his new sound is prime conscious funk, recalling Gil Scott-Heron‘s essential ’70s heyday.
Not that this dulls Michael‘s fire at all – ‘The Payroll (Stay Strong)’ climaxes with Franti smashing cymbals with his bare hands, like Marley lost in righteous irie, while a brutal, spoken word ‘Gas Gauge’ slays with its unapologetically tragic conclusion. The new songs, from Spearhead’s third LP, due early next year, hit on a seam of rousing, Latin-tinged ecstatic soul, ‘Every Soul Is A Poem’ exploding into unexpected bursts of salsa.
A sumptuous new reading of Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy oldie ‘Water Pistol Man’, spiritual counterpart to Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Trouble Man’, encapsulates a night as much about the future as the past’s glories.
Figurehead, godhead, [a]Spearhead[/a] – Michael Franti‘s golden period is now upon him. Forwards ever, backwards never.