in performance: matisyahu



Let’s face it folks, finding a spiritual, much less a musical, link between Brooklyn and Jerusalem on a Monday night in Lexington is one serious trick. Yet that was the sort of bridge that Hasidic reggae-rap star Matisyahu constructed last night at Buster’s.

Admittedly, to the much of the pop world, Matisyahu’s music is all about groove. And last night there was plenty of it thanks to a five member band that pumped up plump reggae and dub fabrics as a backdrop for Matisyahu’s vocals.

There were unquestionably hip hop references, as well. But the rhythms were saturated far more in reggae while the overall musical framework frequently shifted into jam band mode – as shown by an enticing instrumental workout that prefaced Ancient Lullaby. With the music, not the lyrics in the driver’s seat, Matisyahu, with Hasidic locks dangling from under a black yarmulke, simply bounced about the stage, enjoying the dense patterns of keyboards and guitars as much as his audience.

There were a few concessions to mainstream rap, such as freestyle rhymes and beat box jams mid way through the performance that were very pedestrian given the more overtly spiritual plains attained during King Without a Crown, One Day and Lord Raise Me Up.

In fact, the truly moving affirmations didn’t revolve around lyrics or reggae-fied narratives at all. When the band’s rhythms morphed into a fetching psychedelic blur, Matisyahu let loose with a wordless high tenor wail that was heavily accentuated by reverb. When that mix was allowed to reach a boil, it didn’t matter what particular faith or spiritual plain one embraced. The music’s rich ambience and obvious devotional dedication was now open to everyone.

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