Some messages and some messengers simply can’t be silenced, and so it is with Spearhead and its activist leader Michael Franti, who, after one too many major-label compromises, has launched his own recording imprint as a more effective way to disseminate his eclectic group’s musical blueprint of hope for humanity.
Many of band’s new songs, which addressed themes of individuality, an unjust American justice system and the healing power of love, will be found on Spearhead’s upcoming album “Stay Human,” to be self-released on Boo Boo Wax in April. The band has plans for U.S. tours in May and July.
Spearhead headlined the “Stay Human Caravan” West Coast mini-tour at the near-full House of Blues and dispensed with more than an hour of soul, funk, hip-hop, gospel and rock blends, all of which provided an effective bed for Franti’s passionate words (either spoken, sung or rapped) of tolerance, justice, empowerment, freedom and love.
The set opened with the 6-foot-4-inch Franti reciting a poem he wrote in response to the Rodney King verdict, and it only took a few lines of Franti’s booming voice to cut through the chattering crowd. “The harder they hit us, the louder we become,” he intoned, in a manner similar to Gil Scott Heron. “Like a drum,” was his softly spoken, yet powerfully felt, punctuation.
The four-piece band then joined in and kicked the bountiful music off with the uplifting gospel-funk of earlier song “Of Course You Can” (from one of Spearhead’s two Capitol albums), which, like the rest of the evening’s program, was designed to rattle awake both the brain and the booty.
Also performing as part of the “Stay Human Caravan” was B-Side Players, as well as impressive new group Legend of Phoenix, featuring rapper Tre of the Pharcyde.
Various political and environmental groups distributed literature at the back of the club on such subjects as Native American rights, California’s Proposition 21 and the legalization of marijuana.