Matisyahu, Live At Stubbs

Will Hermes

By Will Hermes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Live At Stubbs


The Hasidic reggae singer/rapper Matisyahu sometimes performs shows for religious groups at which men and women are asked to do their partying on opposite sides of the room. That was clearly not the case at the Austin, Texas, barbecue joint gig documented here. But from the sound of it, he delivered more grooving Jewish spirituality than a restaurant serving slow-smoked pork is probably used to.

The king without a crown wows ‘em in Austin.

On Live At Stubbs', Matisyahu and band notch up the tempo on slow-bounce reggae numbers like "Chop 'Em Down" and "Warrior" from their debut, Shake Off The Dust… Arise. The recording lacks some of the bubble-bath dub-echo vibe of the studio CD, but in addition to an appreciable energy boost, the live set shows everyone stretching out with a sensibility jam band aficionados should appreciate. (Matisyahu was once a Phish fan who followed the band on tour.) The singer showcases vocal improvisations halfway between Bob Marley and a really good cantor, not to mention some impressive beat-boxing. On "Fire and Heights," the band segues from reggae into a free-form jam that builds steam, morphs into a jazzy bass solo and then into a wah-wah guitar funk romp. A versatile fellow, Matisyahu appeals to many tribes.