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World Music CD Reviews North American

Michael Franti and the Spearhead

By James Rodgers
Published December 12, 2006

Live in Sydney
MVD

The DualDisc format seems to be custom-made for live concert recordings. Live CDs can be divine, but always feel like they’re missing something. Live DVDs allow you to see and hear the show, but can’t be listened to on the go. Michael Franti and Spearhead take full advantage of this best-of-both-worlds format with a great live performance recorded in Sydney in 2003. The sharp visuals, edited to be exciting but not obtrusive, give the feel at various points of being in the front row, onstage, and in the back. The band, with Manas Itene on drums, Roberto Quintana on percussion, Carl Young on bass, Dave Shul on guitar, Bob Crawford on keyboards and Radio(Active) on beatbox, is tight and energetic. Crawford’s jazz piano is smooth and Radio’s vocal flourishments keep things jumping. But it’s Franti’s upbeat, positive lyrics that eschew the negativity commonly pinned on hip-hop, and his musical stew of rap, soul, jazz, reggae, rock and African rhythms keeps the audience dancing, singing and thinking. That’s something worth watching and hearing, home and on the stroll.