Review: Matisyahu at the Brown Theatre

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Matisyahu performed last night at the Brown Theatre. There was a strong presence from the Jewish community and many parents and children in attendance. Over all the turn out was a bit on the light side. Levi Robin, a singer song writer, opened the show. Robin had a long beard and meek persona. Although I have no complaints on his singing and guitar playing, he was actually pretty good, his sound wasn’t anything unique that really grabbed my attention. I felt like I should be sitting in a coffee shop with mood music playing in the background. While I appreciate his art form, I was bored after the first song. 

Matisyahu came on stage after a short break between sets with David Holmes on guitar, Bryan Gibson on cello, and Aaron Dugan on electric guitar. His new non-Hasidic Jew appearance is completely different and it was obvious some of his younger female fans thought so too, later three young ladies would persuade him to let them on stage during a Q&A. The backdrop for the concert included large drapes of cloth illuminated with colored lights for a very spiritual ambience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from an acoustic set, especially after Robin’s opening act. Somehow Matisyahu pulled off a spiritually transient, reflective performance that retained its Reggae beats. I still don’t understand how such a Reggae voice is released out of a man of his tall, lanky structure. Then again that voice fits his relaxed personality. Matisyahu’s beat boxing skills are something extraordinary in itself. At times I had to do a double take to make sure he really wasn’t using a beat box machine. Never did he miss a beat, and the various beat boxing effects sound incredibly like a machine. An instance of this was when he performed “Live Like a Warrior” which also featured the awesome cello strumming skills of Gibson. Gibson’s playing style is very similar to that of local favorite, Ben Sollee. Despite this being an acoustic setting, Dugan and Holmes’ guitar-centered rhythms kept the music funky.

There were a few songs where the Reggae beats were turned down a bit and lyrical cello lines were added in to create some beautifully warm moments scattered throughout the performance. One particular moment was when they performed “Obstacles.” The singing cello and acoustic guitar together created a very intimate moment. They also did a delightful acoustic beat box version of the Tracy Chapman cover “Fast Car.”

There were two instances where the band partook in an ambient music jam with the lights dimmed on stage. These were probably my favorite moments of the concert and gave me goose bumps. The color swells throughout these musical moments were gorgeous and achieved by cello tremolos and guitar effects.

Photos: courtesy of Matisyahu’s Facebook page by Javier Gil & Lucero Salinas

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