Jewish singer Matisyahu is known for his cool musical blending abilities, Hasidic devotion, and that beard. But, there’s a lesser-discussed element to his talents, too, well on display Thursday night at the Majestic Ventura Theater. This guy can move.
Matisyahu and his Brooklyn-based backing band, The Dub Trio (Dave Holmes, Stu Brooks and Jo Tomino) grooved and whirled through songs from the recently released Live at Stubbs II album, as well as favorites from past studio and live releases. And throughout the set’s expansive blend of blistering rock, electronica, and crunchy, granola reggae rhythms, the physicality of this Jewmaican-sounding singer drew the audience, already absorbed in the emotions and spiritual sub-texts of the music, in further.
His quirky, jerky dance style is, like his music, a notably original mix-up; a combination of moonwalking pops, skanking, some Indian pow-wow-style jumps, and a pirouette or two. At one point, while knocking off a barrel leap, his yarmulke went flying.
The Trio opened the show with the intense, dark ambient tones of “On Nature,” off of 2009’s Light. It was loud and proud, and when Matis, who had hung backstage initially, sauntered out in mirrored shades, safari jacket, khakis, and a Yankees cap, the quiet, humble demeanor he often possesses was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the full-house crowd got rock star Matis, complete with commanding, connecting, and magical stage presence.
Second up came a rocking rendition of “Exaltation,” followed by the lengthy hip-hop track, “Youth.” Dropping down from the heavy start, Matis moved into the quieter “We Will Walk,” before amping right back up again with “Motivate,” a mix of electronica, frantic, machine-gun drumbeats, and bass guitar so deep the floor rattled. Later the soaring “Time of Your Song,” arguably the best of the set, got the crowd dancing.
After “Jerusalem,” there was a quick peace sign flashed as Matis left the stage, quickly returning for two encores. He closed down the show with “One Day.” This was the highlight of the evening, as he extended a hand into the audience and pulled fan after fan onto the stage. By the end of the second chorus a wave of bodies was scaling the stage, singing and dancing and helping to bring Matis’s messages of hope and unity to life.
1. “On Nature “
4. “We Will Walk”
6. “Time of Your Song”
8. “Darkness in Light”
9. “King Without a Crown”
12. “Open the Gates”
13. “One Day”