When you see a 6’5 man walk on stage in an Orthodox cloaked jacket and hat, the white light shining from behind him illuminating his every move and you hear the most beautiful chant-like voice coming from him, you look closer and take notice. And that’s what every single last person in the Hammersmith Palais did when Matisyahu stepped onto the stage and flew into his set.
From the first track he went into all the way through, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He didn’t need wise-cracks, he didn’t need to constantly ask people if they were having fun, he just closed his eyes and sang, or rapped, and we were all hooked. When he broke into Chop ‘Em Down, the upbeat opening track of his first album, the energy stepped up a level. Seeing a sea of orthodox jewish fans standing in a large group in the middle of the venue jumping up and down drew the whole crowd in and soon everyone was dancing in time to the chorus.
At times the humble Matisyahu stepped back to sit behind his drummer or rested next to a speaker to let his band get the credit they deserved as they bellowed a cacophony of syncopated rhythms. But most of the time he spent his non-singing time throwing his arms out and spinning around in a circle, skipping around the stage bouncing his head to the music. When he dropped a spectacular beat box half way through, I felt like there was nothing left he could do, as he showcased another of his talents.
But when I heard his two anthems, Youth and King Without A Crown, I realised that this was the pinnacle. He told the crowd that he believed everyone was in the darkness fighting for their way to the small sliver of light, as they pulled themselves towards it. Whether the crowd were believers or not, his understated spirituality made everyone warm to him before he let rip with a closed fist to the sky and proclaimed that London was madness, but he loved it.
It didn’t matter that I don’t like any other reggae acts, because this was more than just reggae. It was hip hop. It was energy. Matisyahu’s faith isn’t just a gimmick used to give him publicity, it’s something which projects his music and his live show into the hearts of everyone. An awesome performance from a very talented man.