‘You know, you should stop taking pictures and notes, and listen’, told me the girl next to me at Matisyahu’s performance at Bardot on Monday night. ‘Otherwise it is not worth it to have been here for so long,… I have been listening to his music since I was very young, and you should LISTEN’, she continued with her patronizing tone,… but I review shows, miss, I have to take notes otherwise how would I remember about song titles and the rest? Why do people have to worry so much about others’ experience at a concert? And excuse me for not being into the music of a guy who has joined Hasidism, a branch of Orthodox Judaism for more than a decade before suddenly deciding to visit Supercuts a few months ago. Talk about some change of mind.
A clean-shaved Matisyahu appeared on stage around 11 pm, wearing kaki pants, a jean vest and a baseball cap, he looked like your average rapper, young and smiling a lot, a glass of champagne in one hand, the mic in the other one. The numerous young women who had packed the small club all around the stage, couldn’t contain their excitation. Sure, he looked much better like this than on the pictures I had seen online, I have never been a fan of the rabbi-giant-bush-beard-side-curls look, and this new look seems like a new step in his career.
The very small stage was crowded with a lot of synths, guitars, drums and electronic stuff and Matisyahu could not even move a lot, especially when an excited and emotive female fan hung her arms around his neck for a little while. There was a real devotion present in the room, and as usual in this situation, I was feeling like an outsider. Not that his reggae-rap fusion wasn’t interesting, it was gentle and bouncy, the guy had cool dance moves – almost Jackson-like considering the narrowness of the stage – and his new haircut had made him at least 20 years younger, but well all this excitation… I didn’t know exactly what to do with this rabbi-goes-reggae character, he has always been some sort of curiosity. The reggae tone was hardly perceptible but present, the delivery varied a little but was not really rap although the gesture was quite inspired from hip hop, there were some guitar melodies and long jams here and there, although I had the impression the instrumentation was quite minimal considering all the stuff they had brought up on stage.
He was celebrating the release of his new album ‘Spark Seeker’, and may be equally his own release from tough orthodoxy, as he has just moved to LA with his family, ‘I have been here for a month’ he said at one point, and hired Kool Kojak (Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Katy Perry, Ke$ha…) to produce his music, … quite a change, quite a change…
Chris Douridas announced before the show that ‘Spark Seeker’ had just been released 40 minutes ago and was already #7 on iTunes. Matisyahu and his band started with several tracks off this new success, ‘Crossroads’, ‘Searching’, ‘Sunshine’, ‘Live Like a Warrior’, with the help of a vocalist guest for a few of them, then continued with ‘One Day’ off his 2009 ‘Light’ album, and he had to come back for an encore and sang a long one which sounded more like a long jam,.. may be there were several songs, and one of them may have been ‘Message in a Bottle’. During this last one, Matisyahu, who has sagely stayed on stage till now, decided to climb along the wall, then did a short crowd surfing to reach a balcony, and dived his tall body landing flat on the adoring crowd ready to receive him. He split the crowd after having thanked us, visibly super happy to be there… Sure the message of the songs was simple, it was about love and peace, the eternal wish list of nice people, may be a little too Messianic for me, but the connection with the public was quite genuine. And what about the song that the upright fan had told me to listen to? ‘One Day’? It was poppy and had lyrics like these: ‘All my life I've been waiting for/I've been praying for/For the people to say/That we don't wanna fight no more/They'll be no more wars/And our children will play’… oh yeah, and you buy all this miss? I am definitively the cynical one in this story.
It was just interesting that, in ‘Live Like A Warrior’, Matisyahu sang ‘Today, today, live like you wanna/ Let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire’, live like you wanna? Not exactly my picture of life as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, but that would mean he has turned the page on the past. May be he could also go back performing under his real name, Matthew Paul Miller? May be I have just offended a few of his righteous fans.