Michael Franti brings yoga to the concert stage with the inaugural Soulshine Tour

07/24/2014 2:07 PM

07/24/2014 2:09 PM

While pop superstars try to outdo each other in production and over-the-top theatrics on tour each year, it’s rare to see something audiences haven’t seen before.

Sunday, musician and activist Michael Franti brings the first-ever Soulshine Tour to Charlotte. And it brings Franti’s backstage yoga practice to fans who can participate in an outdoor yoga class as Franti plays an acoustic set, before the actual festival-style bill starts.

The show, which takes place at Uptown Ampitheatre, features Franti and Spearhead, Soja, Brett Dennen, Trevor Hall and Sonna Rele.

Last winter, Hall joined Franti at his yoga retreat in Bali, playing a benefit for a local birthing center and school.

“He was talking about doing a tour like this. In the new year he called and said, ‘Hey we’re doing this tour,’ ” recalls reggae-rock/world soul-songwriter Hall, who jumped at the chance. It’s his first tour since taking a lengthy sabbatical that ended with the surprise release recently of new album, “Chapter of the Forest.”

Hall first experienced yoga in ninth grade, when a friend who he noticed never drank or smoked at parties invited him to a class.

“I remember my mom picked me up. I was like, ‘Mom, I feel great. It was crazy. This is so cool,’ ” Hall says with a laugh. He brought his mat the first time he toured with Franti.

“Trying to hang,” Hall says. “He would grab me before the show. We’d practice backstage and he was a great teacher. We became really close. He’s like the father. He’s been doing it for so long, touring and all that stuff.”

Although he’s now been practicing for 13 years, Franti wasn’t sold on yoga at first.

“I was like most people, especially most men. I couldn’t touch my toes. I had this stereotype in my head that you had to be flexible and sit for long periods of time,” says Franti, a former college athlete. “I felt better immediately. My back doesn’t hurt. My shoulder doesn’t hurt. I just loved it. Every town I’d go to I’d pop in a different class. I go to Yoga One in Charlotte.”

He’s excited about the diversity of a yoga studio extending into venues on tour.

“Essentially it’s a four-hour rock concert preceded by a one-hour yoga class with acoustic music,” he explains. “Some people are coming who have never been on a mat before. It’s been great to see people of all shapes and sizes and abilities trying yoga for the first time.”

Franti, 48, says the experience is undoubtedly inspiring his next album. In Soja, Hall, Dennen and Rele, he’s surrounded himself with like-minded artists who collaborate on and off stage.

“I felt for a long time in my career like one of a handful of artists who was really dedicated to making inspiring, politically engaged music,” he adds. “It’s been really exciting to be on tour with younger artists who are conscious artists.”

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