Matisyahu: Avalon, Boston, MA

On the sixth night of Hanukkah, all faiths alike joined Matisyahu and his newly expanded backup band to celebrate the festival of lights.  The night’s set started out with Matisyahu’s revamped band, which now includes keyboards and percussions, working their way around a mellow jam that gradually built the crowd up for the entrance of everyone’s favorite “Hasaidic Reggae Superstar.”

It was clear the emphasis of the night’s material would be coming from Matisyahu’s Live at Stubbs album, as the group tore into “Chop Em Down.” As the tall bearded one rhymed his way through the song’s lyrics, guitarist Aaron Dugan busted out a choppy solo that was reminiscent of Neil Young’s tone, along with a taste of island rhythm.
After working through a handful of Stubbs numbers, Matisyahu dished out a few songs off of 2006’s Youth that were disappointingly similar. His proud faith and individual growth were clear on the songs’ lyrics, but unfortunately, like most reggae music, the chord progressions were monotonous, leading the entire crowd to think that every song he tore into was his newest single, “Jerusalem.”

As the group played “Warrior,” it became abundantly clear how much Matisyahu’s stage presence has developed in the short time he’s been under the intensity of the public spotlight. After climbing on top of a gigantic stack of speakers, he continued to rap while the crowd erupted into a frenzy of crowd surfing.  After dismounting from the speakers, Matisyahu burst into his patented beat-boxing routine. What was once an organically impressive approach to beat boxing was still impressive; however, this time, it was abundantly clear that his microphone was hooked up to an intense array of reverb effects, which watered down the legitimacy of his well-known beat-boxing skill.

After he wrapped his effects laden beat-box, he finally performed “Jerusalem.” The song’s lyrics are clearly his way of expressing his deeply held belief in the legitimacy of the State of Israel, and its role in his spirituality.  By closing with the fan favorite “King Without a Crown,” Matisyahu encored with a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony, featuring a lucky fan picked out of the crowd.  Seeing as the energy of the show was “through-the-roof,” Matisyahu and his Hanukkah extravaganza gave Boston a performance at the Avalon Ballroom that was more than worthy of a cliché “two thumbs up.”

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