A solitary sign hung taped to the Belly Up Tavern’s will call window on November 22nd, declaring Michael Franti’s performance “SOLD OUT” for the night. What an understatement – entering into my favorite and frequently hopping rock-n-roll joint in Solana Beach had never been harder. I squeezed and twisted my way through an overly condensed population of reggae/rock enthusiasts to the front stage where Ethan Tucker was in the midst of entertaining the amassed crowd on an acoustic guitar. He said the rest of his band would catch the next one. Although solo, Tucker delivered a fantastic blend of original songs and covers, cathartically ending with a power mash-up of The Police’s “Roxanne” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”. Tucker departed the stage to screaming fans and everyone in the place began to dance to keep the vibe alive as the DJ took over.
Michael Franti acknowledged his family and fans alike with outstretched arms of gratitude.
As the sound crew started the set changeover, Tucker – refusing the opportunity to become a recluse in his green room – chose to indulge his selfie side with front row concert-goers, leaving his fans with lasting memories. It was refreshingly humble to witness. Backstage, Michael Franti and friends arrive with minutes to spare from dinner, brimming with smiles from their afternoon acoustic performance earlier in the day. As the bluegrass reggae rockers got onstage, Michael Franti acknowledged his family and fans alike with outstretched arms of gratitude. Sitting center stage, Michael Franti took the helm launching into “Oh My God” off his 2001 Stay Human album with Jay Bowman on lead guitar stage right and Carl Young stage left on the bass. Keeping the beat with a foot pedal under bare feet, Franti turned a standing crowd into a dancing frenzy by track two. Anyone who dared remain still during the set was told to jump and clap and move. If that didn’t work, you were even asked up onstage: lucky men and women close enough to the front got pulled up to dance alongside the band, as Franti’s tour manager nervously monitored the ensemble to keep it under control. But everyone was about love that night: it was the One Heart, One Soul Tour after all.
The night progressed with tales about life, love and world peace. For instance, Franti’s son Cappy was born while the rocker was at a young age. Upon graduation from high school and in order to start a life unknown, Cappy sat in the back of a greyhound bus all the way to New York City and the mega-hit “I Got Love For You” was birthed. Franti played a song entitled “Bomb the World” that was written as a peace statement on September 12th, 2001 – a day when racist looters were destroying stores in Oakland, believing the owners to be in connection with the 9/11 terrorist attacks the day prior. As the night wound to a close, Franti fans had danced, sung and unanimously meditated about the world they inhabit; if there ever was a definition of a truly incredible concert, I believe that would be close.