Matisyahu and Stephen Marley
Stubb’s Amphitheater, Austin, TX
May 31, 2018
Review and Photography by Jim Chapin
There is something about a Matisyahu concert that is quite soothing. The music’s lilting beat and sonic tapestry washing over the crowd who dances and sways with the music, hands in the air and seemingly all enjoying the same ethereal high. It is a unifying, communal experience that, when it all falls into place, there is nothing like it.
Matisyahu returned to Austin’s Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater on Thursday, May 31 for the second stop of the Strength to Strength Tour with Stephen Marley.
Matisyahu has carved his own niche in today’s scene. The singer has a unique blend of reggae and hip-hop with underlying Jewish themes. His career spans over 15 years, beginning in his hometown of White Plains, New York and taking him to the pacific northwest. He found his unique place as an Orthodox Jewish musician, performing in a black coat and kippah with beatboxed songs of God and Judaism. His live performances expressed his spirituality, combining rock’s energy and roots reggae into a powerful mixture of musical celebration. Since then, both his spirituality and his music has evolved, expanding in its reach and moving closer to rhythmic nirvana.
The band took the stage sans singer with an infectious reggae bed of sound. Shortly thereafter, the man himself appeared, seemingly lost in the instrumental haze. It took him a few minutes before he attempted to sing and, when he did, realize that he left the mic on its holder far stage right. With a sly smile, he retrieved it, and it was on.
The set seemed like one cohesive piece, each song melting into the next. To the new listener, it was difficult to differentiate between numbers, but to the diehard fans in the audience, they joined in the flow, singing the words and becoming one in the celebration.
His band is phenomenal, combining a jam-band improvisational sensibility with a reggae dub foundation. Guitarist Aaron Dugan, bassist Stu Brooks, drummer Joe Tomino and keyboardist Big Yuki brought a creative synergy to the music that more often than not found Matisyahu stepping back to watch, smiling widely as he rode the sonic wave of musical virtuosity.
Closing the set with his hit “One Day” followed by the lively “Jerusalem” was a beautiful end to a night filled with chill.