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SPEARHEAD - Whistler, BC - April 15 05


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So, they’re not a “jamband”; so what? Michael Franti and Spearhead put on a truly incredible, emotional, and inspired show outdoors in Whistler Village on Friday afternoon.

The opener was an afro-beat/rap artist named K’Naan. Unfortunately, I had attempted to bring my dog to the show (because “everyone deserves music”) but apparently she doesn’t dig the rap scene too much, and as soon as she heard the music, she absolutely refused to come with me down the steps into the concert area. For that reason, I missed the opener while I drove my puppy home. (That is the only comment I have on this Toronto-based rap artist.)

Spearhead, however, was incredible as always. The show was a single set of a solid two hours or more, and the light rain and cold temperatures had no effect on the crowd. The fact is the music was too mind-blowing for anyone to notice the weather.

The show built up from the beginning, possibly culminating in its pinnacle during “Rock the Nation”, when Michael rocked our nation so hard, and threw himself into such a dancing freak-out, that his African-flag-coloured-tam went flying from his head; letting loose his dreads causing his “freak flag to fly” for the rest of the show. I love the way he dances around that stage, with his 61/2 foot tall frame giving the impression of a cross between John Cleese and Gumby; on speed. Very cool. The energy kept up from then to the very end, with the crowd boogy-ing harder and harder until it looked like the audience was going to explode with enthusiasm. (Actually, I think one guy actually did.)

Kudos to the band, as well, for braving the cold, as it was quite noticeable that Dave Shul almost lost his fingers to frostbite on guitar as did Carl Young with his bass. Michael himself referred to “sitting up here in my long-underwear on this cold-ass seat”. The cold certainly didn’t affect their playing though! (I wouldn’t even comment if they were Canadian and used to this sort of thing, but this was truly impressive for a California-based band.)

I walked away from this show in an altered state, practically floating out of Whistler Village (and I should point out that there were no artificial means involved; well to a degree…)

One notable absence from this show was Anthony Robustelli, who would normally be on piano, but had to fly home as his mother recently passed away. My condolences Anthony, and we look forward to seeing you next time.

As well, unless I’m blind or crazy, I didn’t see Radio Active up there, and the show was certainly missing the usual “beat box” solo that he usually does using only his vocal chords. Anyone know if he is no longer in the band?

So, once again, Upstream Entertainment came through and a good time was had by all. (BC’s lower mainland is quickly accumulating a huge debt to Derek and Yanni of Upstream; one that could never be truly adequately repaid.)


Setlist (to the best of my abilities):

Pray for Grace

Fire (Revolution A Come)

Yes I Will (w/ Here Comes The Sun [beatles] & Soul Shakedown Party [Marley] Interludes)

People in the Middle (w/ improv lyrics about Whistler and pot & Get Up, Stand Up [Tosh] Interlude)

Stay Human (All the Freaky People) (w/ Family Affair [sly & Family Stone] {sung by bassist Carl Young} Interlude)

I Know It’s Real

Been Away for Too Long (???) (New song to me; not sure of actual title)

Rock the Nation

Yens and Euros

Sometimes (w/ rap by K’Naan and Smells Like Teen Spirit [Nirvana] Your Love is Making Me Higher (?) Interludes)

One Step Closer to You (???) (New song to me; not sure of actual title)

Tolerance (song written while Michael was in Middle East)

Everyone Deserves Music

Always Be My Friend (???) (New song to me; not sure of actual title) (w/ New Order Interlude possibly called You Are Not the One (???))

Never Too Late (w/ Time Will Tell [Marley] {sung by drummer Manas Itene} and ABC’s 123’s [Jackson 5] Interludes)

Quote of the Day:

Why would Whistler bring bands like that to town to play for free? It’s true they’ll draw lots of people into town; but they’re all the wrong people!

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nice review SM! thanks.

i like the quote too, heheh... i remember when i saw string cheese in whistler on st paddy's day 2001; you could tell exactly who was in town for the show, and it added that 'hippie' element to the whistler spectrum, with the young ski bums in the middle and the super-rich vacationers at the other end...

again, thanks! hope to catch my first franti show at bluesfest this summer.

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saw him last summer at folk fest here in cow town, he played on the main stage and on a side stage. Its like he had what he wanted to say memorized and said the exact thing twice at the same event and ended up playing some of the same tunes, I thought it was weak. His band is cool, but I find him boring, along the same lines as I find Xavier Rudd boring as well i guess.

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In fairness, I agree with you about the memorized stage banter, and that's a bit annoying. I especially find the repeated "How you feeling!!!!" that he repeats over and over during the show to be way too contrived. (I think there were approximately 18 of them in the show on Friday.)

I dig his tunes though.

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