From our vantage point about mid-way up the steeply terraced venue, the sky gave us darkening clouds, distant rain, lightning, bright white cumulonimbus boiling up from hilltops, intense blue sunlit sky above, a rainbow, the red rocks soaring up beside us stirring ancient stories within, their stories of today reflecting it all, sunset behind us, the metropolitan landscape of Denver stretching out on the endless plane below.
Everywhere light, bursting open, talking to us, looking at us looking at each other in amazement, dissolving boundaries, fueling the sense that we were witnessing an unusual confluence of events, leaving us gasping, grabbing for cameras, dissolving the past and future into the moment — becoming wide awake within the dream.
And this was before the main event even started.
Yes, the majesty and wonder of Gaia’s indescribable beauty was awesome to behold. But it was ten thousand hearts that were about to burst open…again… in becoming one voice, one body, one soul, one heart, one life in celebration with the charismatic prophet of Love that is Michael Franti.
His message is simple, direct and inclusive.
Everybody oughta hug somebody, least once a day
Everybody oughta kiss somebody, least once a day
Everybody oughta miss somebody, least once a day
Everybody oughta love somebody, every day
And we all rise up, and we all rise up
And we all rise up, and we all rise up
The purpose of life is to live a life with a purpose
So we’ll never take for granted what the spirit has given us…
(Once A Day)
This is a man who spent fully half of the concert circulating among fans, and not just in the first couple of rows. He roams far and circuitously through adoring patrons jumping and singing along to the music, high-fiving, clasping and hugging all the way.
He is contagious and inspirational. It is a multi-generational experience, from lifting the frail octagenarian from her chair in the front row, helping her to her feet, holding her close and singing ( the sweetness was palpable):
Some days are better than other days
But when I think about the things that we’ve been through
I know just one thing is true
Life is better with you.
(Life is Better With You)
…to dancing with children onstage while prompting them the lyrics. He is adored by the middle aged, the millenials, the boomers and the grade-schoolers. He declared to a nine-year-old that he had the coolest parents in Colorado.
Some say Michael Franti preaches. Hahahahahaaa. Michael Franti, preaching. Hahahahahhhh. What he is doing is stripping the dogma from every religion, every faith, every belief system and displaying, no, not displaying, being the oh-so-simple message at the heart of them all: We Are Alive! We Are Love! Not ‘we can love’ or ‘we should love’ or ‘please join me in loving deity (X).’ No. We Be Love Now….and there is no escape!!
We are everything and everything is us. Who, but the most cynical, the most deeply wounded, cannot hear that?
Michael Franti is a healer of that wound. We are all addressing that wound, the one that has us making war on each other (with ever more sophisticated material and policy weapons) and war on nature. All of it is ultimately a war we visit upon ourselves. He performs his healing as an activist: seeking no confrontations, neither making nor declaring enemies, as a teller of political and spiritual truth. The personal is the political, as we all know, yet how many among us can truly say that our expression matches our conceptual understanding?
Here, in a song he wrote in December, 2014, after the Eric Garner Grand Jury returned no indictment, Franti expressed support for all police while at the same time declaring that we must talk about a big problem with policing:
It’s still rainin’ down tears
I say it in my own house
I say it on the street
I say it on the record y’all
I say it on the beat
I paint it on a wall y’all
So that everybody sees
When we all see justice
Then we’ll all see peace
(Same As It Ever Was)
In more upbeat moments, Michael Franti is simply the embodiment of Spirit Enjoying Itself. The irresistible traction of his energy is even bigger. It is WE together, everything we know, already Spirit Enjoying Itself, so there’s no time like this moment to unburden every self-imposed, culturally imposed, socially imposed constraint on Being the Love that we are. There is nothing else to be, no alternative, and this moment is slipping away. Don’t wait. Don’t hold back.
Resistance is futile.
When he sings Closer To You, the live event is so removed from the sterility of the studio recording, the difference could not be more striking. In person, he is not singing with or about some special woman, he is singing about being closer to the person in front of him, the one he is reaching out to touch, and the next and the next–and everyone becomes the singer of the same song, closer to you, and you, and you…
And I don’t wanna be your friend no more
I only wanna be your love
So I’m down on my knees
Sayin’ please baby please
‘Cause I feel close to God
When I’m closer to you (x4)
(Closer To You)
Do not miss this moment to feel it, grow it and give it away. And that’s what thousands were doing in the stands for the entire concert, dancing, jumping, singing along. Pure exuberance, pure expression – the joy inherent in a two hour dance-a-thon, singing the powerful inspirational lyrics at the top of their lungs. The crowd didn’t stop even when the show was over – with Uptown Funk playing on the PA system – there was lots more boogieing down the aisles on the way out smiling from ear to ear. All is right with the world. We can make a difference – each of us – one day at a time. No one could communicate and inoculate a crowd with that message better than Michael Franti
Following the concert, Michael climbs down from the stage, the pedestal, to greet fans and take innumerable selfies with hundreds for 45 minutes before he is reluctantly ushered away by security.
This man is a barefoot yogi, a musician, a healer whose practice is every moment. In an interview with the Dalai Lama, we are reminded that regardless if we wear traditional robes as he does, or a t-shirt with arms full of tattoos, the truth of who we are lies in what we hold in our hearts and in our sense of responsibility for the betterment of humanity, which is why the Dalai Lama calls Michael Franti a “monk without restriction.”
It’s eleven fifty-nine and fifty-nine clicks.
Life’s a cord plugged in, the whole world’s sick.
Got diseases excited, they crawled up inside us.
Superstupiditis, philosophies that divide us.
Keep us in fear from one another
so we can’t recognize a brother from another mother.
No way, we can’t live this way,
that’s why so many people stand up and say:
One love, one blood, one heart, one soul and
one drum and only one rhythm,
One tribe and all of us singing.