Live Review: Michael Franti & Spearhead, Soja, Annabelle Kay

7 April 2015 | 11:57 am | Amy Summer

"You’d need a heart of steel to resist being washed away by Franti’s soulshine wave."

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Held on Easter Sunday, Michael Franti’s Soulshine Festival at Enmore Theatre did have an evangelical vibe, but not in a religious sense. The gospel for the night was that of love and equality, raising your hands in the air and feeling the music. And there were dreadlocks galore.

After the pre-show yoga session that formed part of the festival, first support Anabelle Kay had a folky Laura Marling vibe, but her passionate vibrato veered dangerously towards bleating. 

Having recently been nominated for a Grammy, second act SOJA’s fusion of pop and reggae was a massive treat. The smiley and enigmatic lead singer Jacob Hemphill was accompanied by an eccentric collection of seven other band members. Bassist Bob Jefferson was at risk of stealing the show with his onstage steeze and incredible back-up vocals (imagine a dude with floor-length dreadlocks doing theatrical high kicks). Their spellbinding tune You And Me put a reggae twist on the typical love song. In an impressive display of musical dexterity, the performance reached a climax when the whole band performed in a drum circle.

A barefoot Michael Franti and his band Spearhead immediately stole our hearts with their opening number, Love Will Find A Way. Although SOJA actually seemed more finely tuned and musically innovative, Franti’s catchy lyrics and upbeat songs had wider appeal. The Sound Of Sunshine had us bouncing giant yellow balloons above our heads, while in Life Is Better With You we were singing along to our significant others. Much to the delight of the audience, Franti made a few visits into our hearts while playing. And it’s not often that audience members get a hug from the main guy when they’re in the seated section of the dress circle!

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Despite all the cheesiness, you get the sense that Franti has been through a lot and you should take heed of his simple message: be present and be grateful. You’d need a heart of steel to resist being washed away by Franti’s soulshine wave.