Concert Review: Michael Franti & Spearhead with Moon Taxi at The Orpheum in Madison

“That’s like a match made in Heaven for you.”

I had two different friends tell me that same phrase after it was announced Moon Taxi would be opening for Michael Franti & Spearhead in Madison in the final week of September. Both of these artists are in the exclusive group of my top 5 favorite artists, finding themselves consistently on my playlists.

IMAG1126This was my 2nd Moon Taxi show, with the first coming last summer when they opened for Matisyahu in Milwaukee. This show was very similar in all aspects, including a great set. Before their show, I got a chance to interview 2 members of the band thanks to my cousin (whom I’ll be writing about soon) who is close with the band. Read the interview here.

Although the set was just a half hour, the musical quality far exceeded the quantity. Moon Taxi opened their set with “Running Wild,” a fresh track of their new album Mountains Beaches Cities. A stand-out moment in their set appeared in the Morocco,” also off their latest album, with some trancey exploration, showing off their jamming capabilities. Their set closer featured a rocking “Cabaret” that featured keyboardist Wes Bailey’s exceptional keyboard wizardry.

Moon Taxi Setlist

Running Wild, All the Rage, Morocco, The New Black, River Water, Mercury, Cabaret

After a brief intermission, the main attraction took the stage. Having seen Franti 5 previous times, I was expecting the opening song to be a track off their latest album, as the norm for Franti shows. I was not wrong, as “I Don’t Wanna Go” opened the show, from All People. Franti didn’t wait long before jumping in the crowd. In the second song of the evening, “Stay Human,” Franti hopped off the stage and navigated through the general admission pit on the lower level, stopping along the way to give high fives and dance with fans. He found his way back to the stage for “Yell Fire!”, and before “The Sound of Sunshine,” he shared a story with how he wrote that album: in the hospital after suffering a ruptured appendix. The mood quickly elevated as what seemed like a hundred of over-sized yellow beach balls came from back stage and flooded the crowd, dancing through the air after bouncing off the hands of anyone able to touch one.

IMAG1138A surprise “Ganja Babe,” appeared in the middle of the set, apparently inspired by whatever Michael smelt in his journeys throughout the crowd. A feel-good moment occurred in “Gangsta Girl,” in which Michael brought several fans up from the crowd with him to join as dancers, with one fan truly seizing the moment as he ran back and forth on the stage, encouraging the crowd to do the wave. After the song ended, Michael jokingly offered him a contract to the join the band.

To close the set, Michael lead the crowd in a sing-along of “Happy Birthday” to one of his crew members before bringing up members of Moon Taxi to join for an upbeat and funky “Let It Go.” As expected, he encored with his biggest hits, “I’m Alive” and “Say Hey,” welcoming any children fans on the stage for the latter, but surprised me with a very well placed “Long Ride Home” between the two for an impressive sandwich.

Michael Franti Setlist

I Don’t Wanna Go, Stay Human@, Yell Fire!, The Sound of Sunshine#, 11:59@, Closer to You@, Ganja Babe, Life is Better With You@, Gangsta Girl^, Hey World (Don’t Give Up)&, Bomb the World&, All People@, Say Goodbye@, Hey Hey Hey@*, Let It Go+

E: I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like), Long Ride Home, Say Hey (I Love You)~
@ Michael singing in the crowd
# plethora of beach balls released into the crowd
^ random fans brought on stage to dance
& Michael on acoustic guitar with Minus on djembe drum
* Get Lucky (Daft Punk) verse
+ with members of Moon Taxi
~ kids brought on stage

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