There is a magic in music and there is a power in shared experiences. When those two come together like they do at a Michael Franti and Spearhead concert, a real magic happens, a good happy magic. On August 17, the Big Big Love tour spent a night creating some magic at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in downtown San Diego. First, The Shell is an absolute stunner of a venue. Opened in 2021, this permanent venue replaced the temporary performance stages and event venue of the past. This is the new permanent home of the San Diego Symphony, the place looks amazing and sounds even better. I tried to show the Shell in all its glory in these photos and I think I managed to capture its beauty quite well, but it’s one of those places that you really need to experience in person to appreciate its beauty. It was the perfect venue for this show.
First up were Soja, a reggae band out of Virginia, formed back in 1997. The eight piece band were the perfect opener for the Michael Franti and Spearhead crowd. Hey, Michael even joined the band for their last number. The upbeat set included some great reggae music and even a reggae-fied version of the Prince tune, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which had the crowd singing along.
Jacob Hemphill – lead vocals, guitar
Bobby “Lee” Jefferson – bass, vocals
Ryan “Bird” Berty – drums
Ken Brownell – percussion
Patrick O’Shea – keyboards
Hellman Escorcia – saxophone
Rafael Rodriguez – trumpet
Trevor Young – lead guitar
1.) Life Support / You Don’t Know Me
4.) Nothing Compares 2 U (Prince cover)
5.) To Whom
6.) Things You Can’t Control
7.) She Still Loves Me
8.) I Don’t Wanna Wait
9.) Here I Am
11.) I Believe
12.) Not Done Yet
After a quick stage change, it was time for Michael Franti and Spearhead. They opened the show with “I’m Alive”, one of three songs off the 2015 All People album that they would play at the show. The show would also include nine new songs from the upcoming Big Big Love album including one of my favorites from the show, “Hands Up To The Sky” (More info on the album release HERE).
For those that have never been to a Spearhead show, it’s really not like a normal concert, Michael and his bandmates tend to leave the stage and wonder about the crowd. Back in 2021, and 2022, they played at another wonderful San Diego venue, Humphreys by the Bay (you can see those photos HERE and HERE). During those shows, Michael and members of his band wondered out into the crowd. This time they did the same thing, but due to the bigger venue and different sight lines, they actually built two tiny little stages with their own lights so that Michael and the band members who ventured off the stage would have a place to go and be seen and heard.
There were also quite a few members of the audience invited up onto the stage to sing and dance along. There were kids invited up to sing along, a large contingent of folks over 65 invited upon on stage to dance, there was even a surprise vocalist in the form of the social media manager, Luisa, who joined Michael for one of the new tunes off the Big Big Love Album. This is one of the most interactive concerts that I have the privilege of shooting. It’s difficult to describe in words the genuine feelings of happiness and joy that seem to envelope the audience and the band, it really is magic. Thank you to Michael, and the band, and the management, for allowing me to cover the show again. I’m already looking forward to 2024 in the hopes that the magic comes back to San Diego.
Michael Franti & Spearhead are:
1.) I’m Alive
3.) Good Day
4.) Good Life
5.) Meet Me When The Sun Goes Down
6.) Work Hard
7.) Calling My Name
9.) All I Need Is You And Me
10.) Vibe Check (My Kinda Party)
12.) Life is Better With You
13.) Big Big Love
14.) Good Shit
15.) Lost But Not Alone
16.) I Got You
17.) Brighter Day
18.) Happy Is The New Sexy
19.) Hands Up To The Sky
20.) Say Hey > Say Hey Remix
Alan Hess is a photographer based in San Diego, where he lives with his wife and two rescued boxers.
Alan is currently the house photographer for a large concert and event venue in Southern California where he photographs everything from major musical acts to ice hockey. When he isn’t out taking photographs, he spends his time writing books and is an accomplished photography educator and trainer.
Alan’s images have been published in a variety of places including news papers, magazines, websites, promotional materials, album artwork, and press releases. His clients include The Associated Press, Fox Television, FX Network, USA Network, Hasbro, Framus Guitars, Gibson, The Dead, Picture Group, Photoshop User Magazine, Steel Pulse, Ziggy Marley, and many more.
He is the author of sixteen photography and technology books covering everything from night and low light photography to multiple shot techniques. His books are sold around the world and have been translated in other languages including: Chinese, French, Polish, Japanese, Thai, and Italian.