Matisyahu gives Light to the Orpheum

A review of Matisyahu and Flobots at the Orpheum Theatre on October 29

, Staff Writer

The Orpheum was jammed on Wednesday night as Matisyahu and Flobots treated the crowd to a show filled with uplifting messages, heady discourse, and two divergent, funky takes on hip-hop.&

Full disclosure about my Matisyahu experience: I saw him at Bonnaroo 2005, when I had no idea who he was or what to expect. He blew me away. I saw him again the next year and was disappointed. So I was a little skeptical going into this show. I was not disappointed. First of all, his band is fucking tight. With Scoota Warner laying down some absolutely sick drum beats, guitarist Aaron Doogan and bassist Jason Fraticelli tearing up the strings, and Rob Marscher on keyboards, they could have put on a great set without any MC at all.&

Matisyahu took the stage nonchalantly, dressed in his traditional Hasidic garb and completely at ease, bopping around the stage smoothly and dropping his rhymes with a sense of confidence and authority that I hadn’t seen in him before. Putting on a well-rounded set of the high-energy reggae jams and rock-solid beatboxing he’s know for, but filling it in with several long, quiet jams where he would stand, trance-like, and chant beautifully. Maybe its because I’ve never been to a show where Matisyahu has headlined, but this concert felt kind of like a worship service. The most awesome worship service ever.&

As secular as it may be, Matisyahu’s music is a call for people of all backgrounds to come together and have a good time, and the crowd at the Orpheum was more than happy to do just that. The set consisted of a lot of new material from the upcoming album, Light, and a selection of favorites including “Youth”, “Chop ‘Em Down”, and “Warrior.” The lovely Ms. Roberts of Flobots offered her viola for an extended “Exaltation.”&

Also joining Matisyahu onstage was Boston-bred MC Nosson Zand, the second-best Hasidic Jew rapper I’ve ever seen. His style is less flow and more in-your-face, and he and Matis tore it up freestlye and provided the absolute high point of the night.

The fact that Matisyahu looks at his music not only as a form of expression, but as a form of worship, give him the ability to bring a certain spirituality to his concerts that other acts just can’t. Sharing stories of his travels to Israel, he brought a lot of important issues into the room, and offered his response, positive and uplifting, with a joyful noise.&

Flobots, riding the success of their ubiquitous summer hit “Handlebars,” took the stage first, and filled their role as an opening act perfectly. The ‘bots opened up with “Stand Up,” while the crowd obligingly did as they were told. MCs Johnny Five and Brer Rabbit had great chemistry onstage, bouncing off each other and filling quiet moments between songs with thoughtful banter and speeches about the state of the world. It was an entertaining, thought not stellar 45 minutes.& &

All told, it was Mackenzie Roberts’ viola solos that stole the show. The set had its high points, but the band seems to lack the necessary level of cohesiveness (though not on the lyrical front) and I kept waiting for a level of intensity to push things to the next level, but it just never happened. They did manage to keep the audience on its feet and they’re definitely a band with talented members, though they equal less than the sum of their parts. To be fair, I might be a little biased because I was sick of that “Handlebars” song months ago. Still, it’s good to see a young band doing something original and bringing a solid message to fans. It wasn’t best show I’ve ever been to, but I dunno, I felt good at the end of it.

Leave a Reply