Matisyahu: Making, Taking You Higher
By Jim Caligiuri,
11:15AM, Fri. Jul. 6, 2007
First, the folks at the Backyard need to be applauded for the solution they’ve come up with to the horrible parking situation. They’ve arranged with a local Home Depot and a church on Bee Cave Road for offsite parking, where you can hop a shuttle bus to the venue. It’s the route I took, and it was remarkably hassle-free, unlike my last visit.
Under a sky that moved from threatening to exposing shafts of sunlight, but thankfully free of rain, this Independence Day celebration began with a much-too-brief set by L.A.’s Particle. The quartet offered but a glimmer of what they're capable of over the course of 30 minutes. Leaning heavily on dancing basslines, they delivered a slab of space funk that moved from high intensity to blissed-out trance with astonishing ease. At set’s end, they upped the cheese factor with a cover of the Commodores’ Seventies disco instrumental “Machine Gun.”
What followed was one of the best sets I've seen this year. File the music of Matisyahu under Hasidic Beatbox Reggae. While that might not make sense, it’s even more difficult to describe its positive nature without sound clips. Beyond the unique image of the Brooklyn-based rapper skanking while clothed in the vestments of his Orthodox faith, the fusion of sounds his fivepiece brought was awe-inspiring. No one mixes dub-wise hypnotics with roaring rock, shifting beats with slinky guitar and authentic reggae into such a delicious whole.
A beautiful version of the ballad “Candle,” sung in Hebrew, quieted the crowd, but the ending one-two punch of “Jerusalem” and “King Without a Crown” was nearly rapturous, the bearded one bouncing, scatting, rapping, and urging his band and the audience ever higher. Words like inspirational and powerful are overused when discussing music these days. In the case of Matisyahu, however, they only begin to scratch the surface.
How 311 can manage two headlining nights at the Backyard, I’ll never understand. But as they say, if you’ve got nothing good to say about someone, say nothing at all, so let’s leave it at that.