Concert Review: Matisyahu

Matisyahu at Humphreys by the Bay. Photo by Juan Barragan.

By Juan Barragan

Humphreys by the Bay
September 19, 2012

Southern Californians are known for their love of reggae music, and many new and upcoming reggae artists have been able to become successful by garnering a huge amount of SoCal followers. Typically, these artists are born in California, but there is one artist who has proven that the East Coast can also produce high quality reggae. His name is Matisyahu, and he is currently finishing up a tour in support of his new album, Spark Seeker. Straight out of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York, Matisyahu immersed San Diego in reggae with an East Coast twist.

The new album, Spark Seeker, shows that Matisyahu is exploring new sounds, dabbling more into the pop and hip-hop genres. To some of his fans, this might be disappointing, but approaching this album with absolute objectivity enables the listener to truly experience Matisyahu’s message of peace, friendship, love, and positivity; the same message that is prevalent in all his previous albums. Altogether, Matisyahu unites these two genres through catchy electronic sound effects.

Matisyahu took the stage this past week at Humphreys by the Bay in Point Loma. The venue definitely has some great aesthetics, with palm trees all around and the San Diego Bay directly to the side of the stage. Although the crowd was unhappy about the seating arrangement, (it was not General Admission, but rather assigned seating) they quickly forgot as the lights dimmed and what sounded like a Middle Eastern tune began to play as Matisyahu prepared to take the stage. It turned out to be the intro to “Crossroads,” which is the first track off of the new album. At this point, there was some type of smoke emanating from the crowd as they prepared to be taken to a state of Irie, which means a state of nirvana and inner peace for the Rastafarian brothers and sisters in attendance, by one of their favorite Reggae artists.

Matisyahu’s set was similar to the other times I have seen him live. He begins singing one song and he slowly begins to connect and incorporate lyrics from a completely different song, thus maintaining absolute originality in his performance. The songs he performed from the new album did not have this artistic approach, but the well known song, “King Without a Crown”, definitely experienced a live transformation from the studio version, incorporating lyrics from “Jerusalem”. All his songs typically have some type of instrumental section in them where Matisyahu uses to display his unique dancing style. When he is not dancing during an instrumental section of a song, he walks to the side of the stage right next to the sound monitors to take in the sounds originating from the speakers; his head down as he listens to the captivating sounds by his amazingly talented band.

Part of Matisyahu’s success arises from his ability to bring both young and older fans to experience live music. To end a successful night, he finished his set with one of his most famous songs, “One Day.” It is custom during his final song for the crowd to storm the stage and sing along with Matisyahu. At first, security was hesitant to allow this, forcibly pulling a girl off the stage as she desperately tried to climb the stage, hanging onto the stage monitors for support. Shortly after, security caved in and even allowed fans to reach the stage via the stairs artists themselves use to reach the stage. It was here that the whole crowd understood what Matisyahu is all about: peace, love, friendship and positivity. By allowing his crowd on stage, the boundary between the artist and the fans was nonexistent, they were one, together singing songs of love and healing.

I personally recommend to those die-hard reggae fans to give Matisyahu a try as soon as they possibly can. And for those who already are familiar with Matisyahu’s music, the new album, although completely different from his previous works, is definitely worth a listen.