With Trevor Hall
Fillmore Miami Beach
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Better Than: Eating animals (Matisyahu is vegan. Yay!)
Even before he took the stage, Matisyahu's presence at the Fillmore was electric. The crowd -- made up of people ranging from teens to 40-somethings - buzzed and smiled as they awaited the arrival of the Hassidic reggae pop-star whose name was written in ten-foot letters across the back of the stage.
When the chandeliers dimmed, his voice came through the speakers and delivered what could have been a prayer or incantation of some sort, or just a jiving 'hello'--it was often difficult to make out his words, which was a shame--as his backing trio laid a spacey dub texture. A hundred camera phones were raised into the air simultaneously, almost ceremoniously, in order to capture the moment he would first appear.
He strolled onto the stage rocking a white shirt and cap (a NY Yankees ball cap), and without hesitation or ado dipped into his fiery lyrical flow as his band went deeper into their groove. His presence in the room was warm and his communication smooth. He played the part of the able conduit, and did so with great skill and confidence. The opening string of songs patiently built momentum, staying mostly in the dub realm as Matisyahu opened himself to the new audience. The connection he maintained with the crowd as he danced, loving the sound of his band and the energy of the room, was strong and inviting. He didn't have to say much to the crowd--and he didn't--in order to create a very intimate experience.
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After the third song in, "Smash Lies," he addressed the crowd for the first time: "Miami, it's good to be back." A single stage light twinkled above his head for a long moment, then he dropped into his hit "Jerusalem," which was followed by "Darkness into Light." It was during the latter song that the rock element became prevalent for the first time. The next song was a poppy new tune called "Sunshine," which he dedicated to the Sunshine State (was he around for the rain all day?). The remainder of the set revealed the numerous styles of Matisyahu's music--lots of guitar-heavy rocking, lots of rap-rock, a few sections of beat-boxing, and lots of poppy reggae-rock.
Although the poppy stuff, and the rock stuff, drove much of the crowd wild--particularly the teenies--the reggae fans in attendance may have found that stuff to weaken the integrity of the vibe that his deeper, dub stuff creates. Throughout, he remained positive, genuine, and generous as a performer, but it was frustrating to realize the bubble-gum element to the scene. However, as tempting as it is to want his music to be more mature through and through, it would be hard to witness the joy on the faces of the kids from the crowd he invited onto the stage for the show closer and not recognize that his music does great work. It is what it is, and it is good.
Random Detail: During the encore, he played a song with local Adam Weinberg. The song was written by a 14 year old "friend" named Elijah, who had died the day after writing it.
By the Way: Support act Trevor Hall also joined Matisyahu during the encore for an acoustic performance of Bob Marley's "Soul Rebel." After the show we caught up with the smiling, mellow, dread-headed young dude to say 'hey.' He reflected happily on the situation of being on the road.
Crossfade: How long have you been on tour, man?
Trevor Hall: A long time, mon. [Smiling stonerishly]
You're in deep tour mode, eh?
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Ya mon. [Laughs]
Ya mon. [Laughs] Respect.