It would be rash to classify Matisyahu as a “reggae artist” or as a
“rapper”. Perhaps the roots of his music and the history of his band
are distinctly grounded in the Jamaican dancehall; however his
compositions encapsulate a wide variety of sounds and influences that
span genres ranging from dub to rap and rock to reggae all within one
song. Berlin’s Columbia Club was host to the third stop on Matisyahu’s
fall tour, in promotion of his latest album, Light (2009).
The set began with Matisyahu entering the stage chanting ethereally.
His form dominated the stage, he not only appeared to be much taller
than the guitarists standing next to him, but his distinctive choice of
clothing (black trousers, jacket and hat, sidelocks and untrimmed
beard, and tzitzit hanging from underneath his shirt) made him the
center of attention. Matisyahu had a distinct transitory style which
distinguished each of the songs. At one moment he would be rapping, the
next he would be ‘rock’ singing, and the next would find him chanting
What made it really a pleasure to watch his performance
was the true joy that he exuded. When he was not howling, chanting,
singing or rapping, he was dancing around on stage, spinning and
throwing his body to the beat of the music (at some points almost
losing his hat). He would even just watch the musicians play with a satisfied smile on
his face. The band deserved this smile, too.
Although at some moments
the beats felt a little thin and contrived, these were made up for by
the long and intense jams featured throughout the entire concert and
within most of the songs.
Matisyahu would take side stage or dance
around as his band improvised smoothly between hard rock, bass-heavy
dub, and light pop-y melodies.
When Matisyahu was part of the songs it was unfortunately difficult to
discern exactly what he was saying in his raps. The trouble to
understand was even acknowledged during the guest appearance by
freestyler Koshadillz in “Nature,” when he asked his friend to slow
down his raps in order to give the audience a chance to really hear
what he was saying. Because of this his performance really was focused
on his appearance and the musical journey he was leading.
hour-long set the band left the stage. A few minutes later Matisyahu
was encouraged to return to stage alone. From this point on the
performance became even tighter. Alone on stage he began to beatbox,
moving from relatively simple sounds to complex and impressive beats.
Eventually the rest of his band joined him again to play another fifty
minutes of music, making it in total almost a two hour show. In this
second set the show really came together, the band was even more
freewheeling; Matishayu was even more precise with his beatboxing and
raps; the audience became even more excited. It’s always best to end
the set on a high note, and Matisyahu and his band remained
stimulating the entire encore, leaving me as well as the majority of the audience excited and satisfied upon exiting Columbia Club into the rainy Berlin night.
Written by Brit-Maren Schjeide