On March 22, Musical Notes Global headed to Toad’s Place, an iconic music venue in New Haven, CT, to see Grammy-nominated vocalist and jamband artist Matisyahu perform on his Spring 2019 tour.
Entering the scene as an Orthodox Jewish singer and beatboxer, Matisyahu released his debut album Shake Off the Dust…Arise in 2004 and quickly became known and admired for his innovative fusion of reggae, rock, and hip hop, which broke down all sorts of cultural and religious barriers. It wasn’t until 2006, however, that his career truly exploded, when “King Without a Crown” was released as a single and became a chart-topping hit.
As Matisyahu transitioned out of the orthodox lifestyle, he began to embrace a more open and universal approach to his music while at the same time holding onto his spiritual roots, with his 2017 album Undercurrent taking him toward a more jam-centric style with his backing band.
Listening to Matisyahu’s recordings is undeniably a spiritual experience in itself, but watching the New York native take the stage and perform live brings his catalogue to a whole new level. In fact, standing in front of Matisyahu in person, one can’t help but wonder if they are in the presence of actual genius.
At Toad’s Place, onlookers enjoyed a genuine performance from a genuine artist. Opening with “Chop ‘em Down,” Matisyahu crafted a transcendent live experience, delivering his unmistakably unique vocals intertwined with dope beatboxing, lighthearted moments of freestyle dancing, and impromptu jam sessions from the stellar four-piece band, who faithfully took direction from the seasoned MC and played rousing solos as one song transitioned into the next.
The lyrics of Matisyahu’s songs, from “Time of Your Song” to “King Without a Crown” to “One Day, are powerfully faith-based and poignant, rich in healing depth and meaning. They are capable of speaking—and have in reality spoken—to people from all religions and cultures due to their relatable messages. Performed live, however, those lyrics leap to life in the most brilliant fashion, making it more than obvious that the words flowing out of Matisyahu’s mouth are not only rooted in the teachings he had studied for so long, but are rooted in and are a part of his own soul as well.
By the end of the show, something that became overwhelmingly evident was that Matisyahu does not put on an act. Although he has gone through quite a few personal evolutions over the years, he never takes on a character that isn’t himself, and he’s not trying to impress anybody. Instead, his goal is to deliver truth through good music and good vibes, and witnessing that intention inhabit the venue and its patrons was one of the most refreshing takeaways of the whole night.
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