Photos By: Alexander Dantés
By: Brandon Marks
Matisyahu took the stage last Friday evening at the Balboa Theatre and what a perfect place to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his breakthrough live album, Live at Stubb’s. The atmosphere was a mystical love-child of intimacy and grandeur. Though the venue emanated majesty like that of the Valley of the Patriarchs in Zion, much of the crowd was close enough to converse with the band in playful shouts. Calls like “take your shirt off,” “let Aaron loose,” and “express yourself” gave way to the lighthearted tone that carried throughout the set.
As I walked to my second row seat, I noticed that the other patrons were an interesting mix of mostly conservative looking 20- to 60-somethings. Not the type of crowd I expected to show up to a reggae concert. With Matis’ hippie-minded lyrics and drug laden past, I was expecting pot smoke to be free flying in the air. That’s just as well because it wasn’t long before I saw how much this music meant to his fans, with or without being high. As the band came out to the stage as silhouettes in the shafts of hazy, red lights that changed to green and faded to blue, a woman behind me shouted “WE LOVE YOU!” and the man next to me followed with “JERUSALEM!” Later on I heard someone say “you saved us.”
In terms of the music, some of the songs stirred in me images of a beachside party and joyous dancing over hot sands, while other, more tribal songs took me to a dark and desolate land where the people danced wildly around a single, secret flame. In actuality, beautiful gypsy-esque women in the audience had left their seats, filling the aisles, dancing just as wildly as in my visions. Even Matis’ son was on stage rocking out to dad’s music.
There was an intense rhythm coming from both the drummer and Matis’ beatboxing. The beat grinded so hard it was apt to alter the rhythm of your own heart. Ra tat tat, Ra tat tat. BUMMMchkaBUMMMchka BUMMMchka. The sound was tangible. What I heard was the boom of an angel’s voice as it fought against the darkness, spreading light and wisdom. At his high points, Matisyahu spit a lyrical flow from the soul so haunting that it could’ve reversed the flow of the river Jordan. With his words, he held hatred at gunpoint. Sounds contradictory, but it’s a fierce kind of love that speaks about understanding and gratitude. It was a calling, and a call to action—the sonic translation of misty-eyed visions of people coming together in world peace.