Matisyahu brought his upbeat, feel good groove to Cain’s Ballroom Sunday night and left in his wake a strange vibe that I am still trying to define.
He can go by different monikers to be honest, because he defies traditional musical boundaries. “The Rapping Rabbi,” “The Hip-Hop Hebrew,” “The Reggae Rabbinic,” all of these terms are spot on. One thing is for sure, as indefinable as he is, he can have you feeling strangely positive and very hippie-esque when you leave.
Walking into the ballroom there was a strange odor in the air, I could not put my finger on what it was. It was somewhat mystical; I will be outlandish and say it very well could have been sprinkles of rainbow with some unicorn musk mixed in. (All joking aside, it was just odd, but somehow inviting.) There are all walks of life strewn throughout the crowd hippies, preppies, children, old dudes, young ladies, dorks, dweebs, nerds, stoners, and just plain folk. By just plain folk I mean, they had no real look to them. If you noticed them on the street they would give you no reason to stop and give them attention. Maybe that was the mystical thing about this show; anyone could be there and fit right in.
As the lights go out and the band slowly makes its way on stage the crowd begins to buzz, but it is nothing compared to when the towering Matisyahu steps onstage. Blue double-breasted blazer, white NY Yankee hat, and chest length beard. We have full blown eruption. Oh yeah, we are in for something interesting here.
The sound that is made is very upbeat, positive and filled with rhythm. As Matisyahu begins his lyrical flow you smile and are taken in by such a gentle soulful feeling. I seriously have trouble explaining it.
The entire night is wrapped in this feeling and the man onstage does not fail to deliver the goods from reggae rap, to hip-hop, to soulful R&B, to an amazing beat box that went on for a good 10 minutes. He is a serious talent and remains low on the radar, possibly on purpose. I understand why if so. He is able to keep his connection with his audience and not be backed into any corners of genre. Probably most evident by his huge stage dive into the waiting arms of the frenzied crowd. He seems to be cherished and somewhat revered, even to the point of the crowd lifting him to standing on their hands as he towered above them holding a rafter with a grin from ear to ear. It is obvious that he is digging it and the feeling is reciprocated completely.
For this writer it was a completely new experience, as I go to most rap shows and feel angst against society, but after this concert I had a feeling of happiness. It was as if the REM hit, “Shiny, Happy People” had taken form and you were able to flesh out what they were singing about.
All I can say is, if this all comes across cloudy or somewhat hypnotic then you may just get what I am talking about. Otherwise you will need to see Matisyahu to truly appreciate what I saw and felt.