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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rebel Rocker's Star Rising: Franti tours with John Mayer

The trail of positive energy and smiling faces Michael Franti leaves behind after festivals and club gigs could become much wider in the next few months.

The San Francisco-based roots-reggae activist and his band Spearhead are touring arenas with John Mayer -- the gentle voice behind the hits Waiting on the World To Change and Your Body is a Wonderland -- while his colourful comments and penchant for Hollywood girlfriends make him a regular in the tabloid media. He's a popular guy in mainstream culture.

Franti has always been more of a grassroots hero, his reputation spread through exhilarating performances. However, after a couple decades of working the live-music circuit, Franti's star has been rising recently, helped along by the success of his latest album, the reggae-hip-hop-infused All Rebel Rockers. One upbeat song, Say Hey (I Love You) is Franti's first Top 40 single and is included on the soundtrack to the movie Valentine's Day.

Still, to be thrust in front of Mayer's audience is an opportunity Franti will make the most of. "I feel it's going to be one of the most fun tours I've ever done," the 43-year-old musician said.
While his fans are probably aware of Mayer, Mayer's young female fans might not be aware of Spearhead and Franti's charismatic energy. He is sure to leave them smitten.

Because it's his first arena excursion, Franti is giving serious thought to how his songs will sound in a cavernous space.

"The thing is, when you're in an arena, the music really washes around," the father of two said. "If you do stuff that has a lot of syllables to it, you need long soaring notes and long soaring guitar parts, so we've been working on that."

Franti is also planning to play material from his forthcoming album. Recorded in Jamaica and San Francisco, The Sound of Sunshine was created to inspire people.

"It's a really difficult time," Franti says. "There's so much to be worried about, frustrated about, afraid of, and I wanted to make this record be one that helped people get through tough times. "

The new songs are among the most danceable he's ever written, but not quite as outspoken. "They're not maybe as political as some albums I've done ... it takes the efforts of all of us to contribute to the betterment of the problems that we see in the world today."

Michael Franti
Opening for John Mayer
When: Tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: GM Place
Tickets: $54.50 -- $101.35 at Ticketmaster


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