Every event is different and every event has highlights but I can honestly say I think this was the best Alice in Winterland ever. The vibe in the building was better than I’ve ever felt, from the Toys for Tots toy drive with the regal Marines greeting guests at the door to the end of the night with Michael Franti running through the crowd, batting around huge green balloons as they flew through the air, everyone in the building smiling and laughing and dancing and just feeling the amazing energy of the night.
Some of my personal highlights were Delta Rae, “If I Loved You” and “Dance in the Graveyards.” I told them before they left, I am on a Mission From God about these people! Their insane raw talent and their super-dramatic live shows are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I. Am. In. Love. the fact that most of the band members are from the Bay (and grew up listening to Alice) just makes their story even cooler.
As always, Gavin DeGraw proved himself to be one of the kindest and most down-to-Earth people you’ve ever met, on and off stage. Rather than do a big “Artist Entrance” he just strolled into the Bimbo’s kitchen to say hi to everybody, taking pictures with every last person who asked – and then making sure that the photographer himself got a shot with him too! He’s humble and funny and adorable and then he just casually gets on stage and DESTROYS. His version of “In Love with a Girl” was the most intense possible way to start, and by the time he got to a cover of Justin Timberlake “Mirrors” and mashed it up with “I Don’t Want to Be” the audience was pretty much climbing the walls.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the night ended with one of the most powerful, positive, straight-up-party sets anyone in the building had ever seen, courtesy of the life-force known as Michael Franti. Michael Franti embodies everything that’s right with the world. He’s just about love, and being who you are, and letting everyone shine their light. The whole club was bouncing with “the Sound of Sunshine” and “11:59” and it was around then that he ran out into the crowd, dancing and singing and never missing a beat.
He mixed in his overwhelming brand of personal warmth and compassion into the party, when he did an incredibly moving tribute to Nelson Mandela – and also when he told the crowd about his charity, Do It for the Love, which is a wish-granting organization that invites all sorts of people to experience his shows … like people with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans. Michael told the crowd about a friend of his from that group, who is so ill as to be in hospice care, but who had come from San Jose to the show. He danced out in the crowd to his friend as the rest of the crowd cheered, and I knew I wasn’t the only one smiling through my tears at that beautiful moment. Michael is as beautiful a person, inside and out, as you could ever imagine, and to watch him do that and then launch into “Say Hey I Love You” shows every single side of his beautiful soul.
Finally Michael invited openers Delta Rae back onstage to join him as he closed out the show, and it only made sense that the whole audience ended up singing the last notes of a night no one there will ever forget.