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Good ReadsMichael Franti's Sound of Sunshine

Michael Franti's Sound of Sunshine

Michael Franti's Sound of Sunshine

All images by Andre Gagne.

NOTE: A show review of a Michael Franti performance is really best told by the audience. Ours will include tweets, Facebook posts and fan Gary Nichols' Youtube vids interspersed with an email OLM reporter Andre Gagne wrote to a friend after the show.

Michael Franti (7 of 35)
Dear Viv,

How does one try to explain what it is like watching Michael Franti perform? Try to picture how it would feel if the summer sunshine suddenly turned into music, a warmth that envelopes you, digs out the dark and fills the empty with love, positivity and a want to hug everything that moves.

And move we did, the thousands gathered in Confederation Park on this beautiful night, from the lawn to those up on the bridge trying to peak around trees to catch a glimpse of the show. We clapped, we swayed our arms and, oh yes, we danced, danced, danced.

His music takes the rays of that sun and fuses roots, reggae, funk, folk and hip hop but, for us in the crowd, the moment Franti strapped on his guitar there were no genres. The music just became life, a wonderful life where in a chorus your problems became extinct and you are filled with an unbearable urge to somehow try to better the world.

There’s a power in song, Franti will tell you, that can evoke change but you really feel it as this soul caress when you see him live. It makes you want to forgive, it makes you want to give and, for me in that moment, it makes you want to get on a plane that night to some place on the planet where the people need helping and just do any bit of good you can.

Before he even took the stage, the people in the crowd were urged to kick off their shoes to join in the no footwear lifestyle Franti has adopted for nearly two decades. We didn’t need to be told twice. Off came the sandals, heels and sneakers; bare feet pointed to the stage, toes wiggling. “Hey, hey, hey / no matter how life is today / there’s just one thing that I got to say / I won’t let another moment slip away!”

Franti sang and, within moments, even the lawn chair people were out of their seats. For those of us who have attended many years of the Ottawa Jazz Festival, you know this isn’t an easy task, a musical miracle made even more fantastic when you realize they just weren’t sitting back down.

Michael Franti (26 of 35)

How could we? Franti only wanted to get close to his audience. By the second song he had invited a youngster on stage to sing all about the “sound of sunshine” and by the third he was out on the lawn and in that crowd, airborne beach balls soaring around his head, dreads flying as he got us all to bounce to the beat. There, away from the stage lights and with the people, the singer seemed more comfortable. Any given face wore the expression of pure joy.

“I want to see you all jumping,” he shouted from a perch in the middle of the crowd and the thousands did, creating a positive wave of energy that continued through songs that encapsulate Franti’s message: “Good to Be Alive Today”, “Life is Better With You, “We Are All Earthlings” and “I Got Love For You”. Clapping along in the crowd was Franti’s wife, Canuck nurse Sara, and, with a smile that beamed, PM wife Sophie Trudeau.
Michael Franti (15 of 35)When we needed a bounce break, Franti had us forming circles with the strangers around us, sticking up an impromptu square dance inspired by a group of people he recently spent a night chatting with while the bad boy of pop, Justin Beiber, opted to crash early in the hotel they all shared. Beiber’s image doesn’t gel well with Franti’s love soaked songs anyway. Hundreds of people holding hands on an Ottawa park lawn where we are told to just get crazy, yeah, that’s the kind of crowd for the Soulrocker.

Leo Kerner (via Facebook):
This was not jazz, maybe rock? Not usually my type was music. But boy was
it a superb concert! The audience was on its feet like close to 100% of the time, and Franti
mingled with the audience much of the time. A great evening.

“Just be alive,” Franti said. “Even though things are super challenging, there’s no better time to be a citizen of the world because we have an opportunity to make the world a better place!”

He performed most of the show from the crowd, stopping to give hugs to anybody who stretched out their arms. He’d hold the mic out for people to join him and, at one point, even the band moved into the audience carrying guitars, drums and a whole lot of soul touching energy.

Even though I didn’t know most of those who shared this experience with me, there was somehow a sense of togetherness here that reached all the way to the back of the park.

Michael Franti (24 of 35)
The show only seemed to slow for a moment when Franti dedicated a song to Bonnie, a cancer patient in the audience who was there on behalf of the singer’s Do It For The Love Foundation, an organization that helps people get out to concerts and share in the healing powers of music. Michael Franti (35 of 35)

When Franti eventually made it back to the stage he brought with him about a dozen ecstatic kids from the crowd for a dance party. Some joined in with him to sing “Say Hey (I Love You)”, grins firmly in place that were like lighthouses slicing through the evening and radiating perhaps farther then even the music could carry.

When you are filled with positivity, love and compassion it becomes infectious. When the show was over and Franti was out mingling in the crowd while John Lennon’s “Imagine” played, we the audience realized one indisputable fact: it’s damn near impossible to leave a Michael Franti concert without feeling good!

Wish you were there,

Michael Franti (10 of 35)


  1. Hey Hey Hey
  2. The Sound of Sunshine
  3. Get Myself To Saturday
  4. All I Want Is You
  5. Good to Be Alive Today
  6. We Are All Earthlings
  7. Crazy for You Play
  8. Life Is Better With You
  9. I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)
  10. 11:59
  11. I Got Love for You
  12. We Do This Every Day
  13. Once a Day
  14. Say Hey
  15. My Lord


Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series will provide a unique look at some of your favourite summer events.We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. Your city! Your festivals! Your summer! Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

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