Matisyahu brings warmth on a hot Atlanta day


Masquerade Music Park
Atlanta, Georgia
July 23, 2010

There was a time in the not so ancient annals of Jam that many jaded tour vets swore that Matisyahu (Born Matthew Paul Miller) was nothing more than a passing fad. In their "I-am-too-musically-superior" ways, they even managed to apply a Yiddish term when referring to the observant Hassidic Jew from White Plains, New York, calling his act as a "schtick."

However, Matisyahu has consistently responded to the naysayers with some of the most spiritually transient moments on the live music circuit today. He has managed to do so with endurance, letting loose a tone that could have never been fathomed from his tall and lanky frame. Through extensive touring, guest sit-ins at major festivals, tireless radio and television appearances and opening slots for larger acts, he has unleashed his voice on anyone that would listen.

And listen is just what the crowd at Atlanta’s Masquerade Music Park did.

matis1.jpgAlmost seven years into his career and armed with five LP’s, a Dub remix record, a Grammy nomination and numerous world tours under his yarmulke, Matisyahu and his latest backing band, Dub Trio, graced the Masquerade stage as an opener/ co-headliner for the recently revived Sublime for a fifty minute spiritually considerate journey that blends ecstasy, reflection, and dance.

To the Matisyahu faithful, the loss of the only member of Matisyahu’s figurative entourage to have been in the mix since the beginning, guitarist, Aaron Dugan was a blow that was difficult to take. Dugan played a major role in developing the sound that fans have come to know and love, and he’s certainly missed and probably always will be as long as his absence remains.

However, what Dub Trio members Dave Holmes, Joe Tomino, and Stu Brooks have managed to bring to the table is an almost entirely new sound. By blending a dirty dub mix of house and reggae into the sounds of old, they are doing so in a manner that requires even the most trained Matisyahu listener’s ear to do a double take when the opening notes of a given track are played. The new sound is short on extensive guitar-centered jams but long on overall and extensive aural pleasing resonance, a sound that Matisyahu has been gravitating towards over the past several tours.

matis2.jpgThis was a tone that was set from the first note of the gig with the opening and limbering up number that is simply referred to as "Ambience." It served as a preamble to Matisyahu’s entrance to the stage which would bring him out adorning a tallit (prayer shawl) in what one can only assume [by not being an authority on Orthodox Judaism] was being worn in observance of the-fast approaching Shabbat (the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judiasm). The tune segued through Matis’ beat boxing into a subdued version of "Chop ‘Em Down."

In speaking to Matisyahu prior to the gig, he was quick to point out that the approach he takes when playing to a diverse crowd that sometimes turns into the "frat-like atmosphere" that he observed from his bus is different from the one that may be taken with an audience solely comprised of Matisyahu devotees. He continued by saying that it is important to be cognizant of who is in the audience and to attempt to "draw the audience in from a place that they can understand while still remaining true to the message you are feeling and trying to emit." This is exactly the role that "Chop" played in that its message is abundantly clear through its lyrical content. Coupled with the bait of strategically and newly placed synth, it was something that would make even the biggest stoner bite. This late addition to the set list worked beautifully as many of those that came to simply smoke some weed and groove to the familiar mid-90s surfer and skater friendly ska-punk tunes of Sublime were drawn into the message and sounds of ego-deflation served up deliciously by Matis and Dub Trio.

Following the openers that totaled 16 minutes, the place setting was officially laid, and like a captive fleeing from his kidnapper, out of the gate came "Time of Your Song," which has the feeling that one viewed as a child when witnessing the crowds at events like Live Aid. Within its confines, "Time" contains all the energy of a European flag-waving extravaganza. The number was consumed in its entirety by the throng of youngsters and after obligatory thank you remarks were given, no time was wasted before showcasing exactly what Dub Trio offers in a remarkable and trance inducing rendition of "Motivate."

matis3.jpgThis newly reworked version of 2009’s Light track was enough to cause twinges and shivers in the spines of someone who recently received an epidural. The hooks were deep and although mostly synthetic, came across as truly genuine. This was particularly due the efforts of drummer Joe Tomino and was even further sullied through the plummeting bass lines of Brooks. These elements, accompanied by the increasingly excited voice of Matis that heightened in intensity from the fervor of Holmes’ play, made for something that was truly majestic to experience and informative to those in attendance. It stated in a resounding manner that this music was an experience – not just another show.

Before getting to the crowd pleasers, a guest was brought into the mix – cellist and Atlanta native Bryan Gibson – for a profoundly thought provoking version of "Temple," which brought about a series of peaks and valleys before landing gently in a lyrically and musically improvised meadow, "Aish Tamid."

The show could have ended here without a legitimate complaint in the venue, but alas, it was time for crowd favorites "King without a Crown" and "One Day." Both of these familiar tracks managed to possess unique elements that were not present prior to Dub Trio. This was especially evident through the concentrated and forceful play of Dave Holmes that made for a ridiculously hype "King without a Crown."

By the time that "One Day" closed, the crowd was begging for more, chanting for just "one more song." Matisyahu had stolen the stage once again in a way that was and is uniquely his own. In a crowd where at least some came in solely focused on Sublime with Rome, they left with one band on their mind and it was written all over their face. Their puzzled grins could not have been more indicative of being turned onto something that they never even saw coming. The commentary was unanimous in its consensus. There was a hunger for something deeper and with that, Matisyahu’s Atlanta mission was complete.

Click the thumbnail for more shots from the show