Date: Sunday, June 8th, 2012
Line up: Michael Franti & Spearhead
Location: Red Rocks Ampitheatre. Morrison, CO
Setting The Stage…
As I drove up to the historic Red Rocks Ampitheatre on Friday night, cars were parked on the entrance roads, signaling that all four of the venue’s massive parking lots were full. After parking the car I began the long, steep walk to the Ampitheatre. For those of you who have been to Red Rocks, you know what I’m talking about. And, for those of you still dreaming about seeing a show at the historic venue, let me paint you a picture of the adventure to the entrance.
First, I need to outline some factors that will make the walk a bit challenging depending on your physical condition. Red Rocks is 6,200 feet above sea level. For those of you wondering, that is about 1,000 feet higher than Denver, or a mile-and-a-quarter higher in the sky then San Francisco. This means that you will be getting less oxygen, and combined with alcohol, you will surly be gasping towards the end of your journey to the top. Second, I consider the trek to Red Rocks “urban hiking.” In other words, the hike doesn’t require any serious gear. You can make the walk in flip-flops, backpack over your shoulder and a beer in hand. However, the paths are steep and depending on how far away you parked your legs will be shaking by the time you find your seat.
I was lucky to catch the band’s previous two Red Rocks shows in 2007 and 2010. Those shows were signature Franti–full of energy, waving arms, sing-alongs and crowd interaction. A Spearhead show at Red Rocks generates more of a “festival” feel than most other shows. The diverse mix of folks that turn out for a Spearhead show range from grade schoolers, to 80-year olds in the front row, to suburbanites, to hippies, to hipsters and everything in between. Fans swarm the venue’s parking lots hours before the show, their cars loaded down with coolers, camping chairs and frisbees–all typically part of the festival going experience.
On Friday night, June 8, 2012, the legendary Ampitheatre would welcome back a familiar friend. Michael Franti and Spearhead would make another headlining stop at the venue for the “Do It For the Love Tour 2012.”
Franti has been making music since the mid-1980’s, but his current (and commercially successful) project Spearhead has been pumping out albums since 1994, with seven full-length albums over the past 17 years and another expected to be released in 2012. Michael Franti and Spearhead have played at every major festival and venue in the country, from Bonnaroo, to Austin City Limits, to Red Rocks.
Spearhead has garnered serious international attention and collaborated with legendary reggae producers Sly and Robbie. In recent years the band has earned steady radio play around the country, including top-20 single “Say Hey (I Love You).” Spearhead has even played for President Obama during the presidential inauguration. Once focused on serious social-political themes like poverty, race and war, Franti’s songwriting approach has evolved into love, hope and unity. Spearhead’s 2006 release “Yell Fire,” was a politically charged, anti-war album written after Franti visited Iraq. The release of 2010’s “The Sound of Sunshine” brought positive vibes, lazy summer jams and plenty of head-bobbing.
The band’s currently untitled, newest album is scheduled to release later this summer and is said to be “more aggressive and louder,” with aspects of punk and dance beats. As in records past, Franti is collaborating with legends Sly and Robbie on drums and bass on the new album.
The capacity crowd began roaring as the lights dimmed, and Franti and Spearhead took to the stage. Walking barefoot with acoustic guitar in hand, infectious smile on his face and dreads tucked under a cowboy hat, Franti kicked into the shows opening song, “East to the West.”
Franti immediately made his favorite request, “I wanna see you jumpin!” As I looked back from the photo pit I was greeted with the sight of 9,500 fans and 19,000 arms in the air–turning Red Rocks into a human sea of dancing and pure energy. Franti and the boys continued their set with a mix of “All I Want is You / Do It For The Love.”
During the song Franti jumped the barrier and made his way into the second row. Franti was welcomed by loving fans, hugs and some high-fives. He then made his way to the front row where he escorted his newest fan to the front of the crowd. Franti stood with 89-year old “Ilene,” arm around her shoulder, while he finished the song and kissed her on the forehead. He would later dedicate the song “Sweet Little Lies” to the sweet old lady.
Jamaican reggae and dancehall vocalist Cherine Anderson stole the show for a short time when she took the lead on “Little Bit of Riddim.” The upbeat, danceable rhythm and Anderson’s rap interlude in the middle of the song had the crowd stirred up.
About halfway through the set, “The Sound of Sunshine” started with hundreds of beach balls flying down from the top of the venue. The waves of beach balls seemed to fly in unison with the songs rhythm. The highlight of the set came about halfway through the night, when for three songs the entire band left the Red Rocks stage and went to “B-Stage.”
B-Stage isn’t exactly a stage. B-Stage is the fifteenth row of the Ampitheatre. Franti and Spearhead made their way to the middle of 9,500 to play “Ganja Babe,” Hey World” and “I Got Love For Ya.”
Before breaking into the familiar opening of “I Got Love For You,” Franti asked the crowd to “grab the person you came with…or the person next to you and hold their hand.” The songs messages of love and hope resonated with the crowd as they sang along with the chorus, “I got love for you, I got love for you.”
Franti and Spearhead returned to the Red Rocks stage for the remainder of the set. They treated the crowd to a small sampling of new album, by playing “Earth From Outer Space”–a new song about the joys and problems of human relationships– as well as, “Life is Better With You.” To end the night, Spearhead played a two-song encore that included fan favorite “Say Hey (I Love You).”
Throughout Spearhead’s set the Red Rocks crowd loved every minute. Franti and Spearhead walked onto the stage and delivered their trademark high energy and inspired show–full of singsongs, jam solos, dancing, beach balls and even a temporary stage relocation. They left the stage to smiles and 9,500 roaring voices. Spearhead continues the “Do It For the Love Tour” with a full slate of stops, including the Toas Solar Music Festival in Toas, New Mexico on July 1st, St. Louis, Missouri on July 14 and a return to Colorado in September for the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival in Aspen, Colorado. The entire tour lasts for over five months with stops on both coasts and nearly everywhere in between.
Michael Franti’s Set List:
East to the West
Everyone Deserves Music
Yes I Will
All I Want is You / Do It For the Love
Little Bit of Riddim (w/ Cherine Anderson)
Live Sounds Like
Sound of Sunshine
I Love For You
Earth From Outer Space (New Song)
Sweet Little Lies
Life is Better With You (New Song)
Hey, Hey, Hey
I’ll Be Waiting