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PHOTOS & REVIEW: Matisyahu & Dub Trio – December 7, 2009 - St. Andrew’s Hall

Following a late afternoon interview with Matisyahu on his tour bus, the audio of which will be available here at MCB shortly, my recording engineer Z-man and I ran around the corner from St. Andrew’s Hall to grab some ‘za and Greek salad at Niki’s. Dodging the homeless panhandlers on Beaubien (as I hadn’t a dime in my pocket) we returned to St. Andrew’s at 6:45 so Z-man could set up his recording gear for the show, and the opening/backing band Dub Trio took the stage at 7:30pm and played a loud, short set to about 60 people already in attendance that ended half an hour later. In the meantime, the room started filling in. Then it filled in some more, and by 8:30 when Matisyahu took the stage, the Hall was already approaching around 90% of its roughly 800 person capacity. A former church, St. Andrew’s Hall opened as a concert venue in 1980 and has featured bands ranging from Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Phish to Eminem and a slew of hip hop acts. The latter, perhaps, was among the reason of this choice of venue as Matisyahu had previously performed at the considerably larger Fillmore Theater (formerly State Theater) last year, although that was far from at capacity. Matisyahu’s newest album ‘Light’ was released not quite two months ago, and features a much more intense hip hop vibe in comparision to his earlier, reggae- and jam-driven compositions.

Coming out at around 8:30, Matisyahu’s backing band consisted of the bassist, guitarist, and drummer from Dub Trio, a second guitarist, and a keyboardist as well. When Matisyahu took the stage, the place was as full as I like to see shows there, or maybe a little more, but it was a pretty tame crowd. I did notice a number of parent/child dyads in the crowd, a healthy smattering of yeshiva boys, lots of nice Jewish boys and girls (mostly in their late teens and early 20s), and a fairly sizable proportion of music loving goyim. Opening with Heights which transitioned into On Nature, I was impressed by the fact that having seen him before, the new band made a huge difference. Whereas his prior band was heavy into reggae beats and jam guitar riffs, the Dub Trio led band was WAY heavier and more thumping in a hip hop-meets-rock booming bass and chunky rhythm guitar. I suppose I developed a different appreciation for Matisyahu as an artist independent of any backing band. I’ve listened to Light a number of times and have enjoyed its radio friendly appeal. The live show was a bit of a contrast in its far more intense, driving rhythms occasionally interrupted by haunting and reverbed-out Yiddish-Hebrew inspired vocal riffs. The set lasted for two hours and closed with a version of King Without a Crown that lasted for over 30 minutes. Toward the end, Matisyahu climbed up on the high speaker stack and was standing, holding onto the light supports while singing and beatboxing before climbing down to a lower speaker where he sat, keeping the audience captivated all the while.

Overall it was an enjoyable show with a great crowd – look for the links to the audio interview with Matisyahu in the next day or so. If you'd like to download the show via bittorrent, Z-man's great recording is available here. Check it out if you want - you'll also have to know how to listen to or decompress the flac files, but a little bit of googling should get you pointed in the right direction.