Seeing The Spark Seeker: A Review of Matisyahu at House of Blues Boston

House of Blues Boston, Kenmore Square, 07/10/12

Around the corner from the House of Blues I may have been offered libations from a progressive duo of College age. Their hair was shaggy, dress appropriate, and a flag hung defiantly over their shoulder. Among things handed my way was a flyer stating how non-Jewish citizens of Israel did not have the same rights as Jewish citizens. It was then I realized the draped flag was of Palestinian Origin, and in a silent panic I tripped over an invisible border, and landed strait into an argument.

I left the scene gracefully, not taking the bait for discussion, and as the duo receded zero judgement guided my steps. They were kids who wanted conversation, a confrontational way to go about it no doubt, but what else should be expected from the bright eyed and youthful? I have no horse in their race, and only hope that what some people call Peace wins out. Wishful thinking no doubt, but with hope lies hope, and that’s enough for now. Regardless, I couldn’t shake the ghost of politics for the remainder of the night, despite the festive atmosphere provided by Matisyahu and his Dub Trio.

Matisyahu on stage. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Matisyahu on stage. (Photo – D.Hixon)

My knowledge of Matisyahu is minimal at best, and I don’t consider myself an active fan of his. That said, I admittedly entered the House of Blues with a predetermined bias,  as his former Manager previously managed a band and label I worked closely with for years: that label is no more, and the divorce between the Manager and Band was ugly. I thought this was unique, but a quick search via Google shows this may be par for the course with him. I sided with the band, and under muttered breath cursed the Manager and his interests, misguided or not, which affected my feelings on Matisyahu for years.

These personal conflicts aside, a big surprise for me was the lack of beard and hair sported by Matisyahu. This shaved demeanor occurred in December of last year amid mild controversy, and on-stage he was as clean shaven as a preppy, looking like some sort of rouge stoner jock. His Dub Trio band was equally unassuming in appearance, and could blend with any Berkley student riding the T straddling a guitar case.

Matisyahu engulfed by the crowd on stage. (Photo - D.Hixon)

Matisyahu engulfed by the crowd on stage. (Photo – D.Hixon)

Unassuming or not, Matisyahu and his band commanded the attention of the crowd. The music was an eclectic mix of rock, reggae, dub, and dub-step, and the singing of Matisyahu, and the musicianship of the band was top notch. I was a bit surprised by the lack of diversity in the crowd given I was seeing a man who was named “Top Reggae Artist of the Year” by Billboard Magazine in 2006. The crowd was mostly white college aged kids looking for a party, in the same demographic as the flag wielding duo outside.

The last surprise of the night was the sheer enthusiasm for crowd surfing being displayed by these kids. Being a product of the 90’s the juxtaposition of the music and surfing seemed to be a bit at odds, but I appreciated the enthusiasm none-the-less. This keen interest peaked towards the end of the night after Matisyahu helped a girl onto the stage which in-turn led to a torrent of kids jumping up as well, forming a wall in front of the band while dancing in rhythm, with hands raised over their heads.

On a night when I was dealing with the demons of politics and past villains this was the moment that won me over. It may not have been my scene or music, but seeing this moment of togetherness made it was worth trying to hear the conversation, and in the end that’s all any kid inside or outside the Hall wants. To be seen and to be heard.  What else should be expected from the bright eyed and youthful?

D. Hixon

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