When I saw Matisyahu play Bonnaroo in 2008 he urged the audience to go forth and make babies. He and his band were fantastic, but I was a bit put off by his suggestion that it was my religious responsibility to reproduce. However, three years and two kids later I think he may have had fertility powers beaming out at the audience that day. Tuesday at Amos' there was little banter and no talk of increasing the population, just the reggae rapper/rocker backed by Brooklyn's tight, versatile Dub Trio seamlessly blending genres for a diverse and rocking set.
Hilton Head native Trevor Hall, a friend and sometime collaborator of Matisyahu, opened the show. Hall has a good following in Charlotte having sold out the Double Door Inn a few times before and fans gathered at the front section singing along with songs like "The Lime Tree" from 2009's self-titled album. At one point his father joined him on stage to sing and dance. Backed by a three-piece band and looking ever the surfer/beach type with barefeet, long blond dreads and skinny white pants, Hall delivered hopeful lyrics that roll quickly off the tongue like the seasoned (even at 24) reggae singer he is. I like that Hall's songs aren't strict reggae. Like his self-titled record, his just released followup "Everything Everytime Everywhere" is a mix of soul, folk, blues, pop and reggae that can appeal to fans of different styles. I think his songs have widespread enough appeal to crossover to a VH1 audience and fans of acts like Coldplay or John Mayer.
The same versatility can be applied to Matisyahu. While he definitely has a distinct sound all his own his songs drift from ska and reggae and hip-hop to ripping rock anthems with pop hooks. The stylistic convergences allow the songs to breathe and change on stage often within one track. There was belly shaking bass, dance club ready synth-driven hip-hop, distorted meaty guitar riffs, trippy electronics, and plenty of ska and reggae riffing. The Dub Trio is excellent, easily transforming from a dub reggae unit to a funk-rock or hip-hop combo. During a few extended jams the guitar delivered Explosions in the Sky-worthy atmospherics and the synt
hesizers were equally creative whether sending out videogame style bleeps or mimicking one of those hollow toy tubes that make otherworldly "whooonnnngs."
Toward the end of his set Matisyahu eyed the light rig hanging above him, backed up to the drum riser, his tall lanky frame in wide take off stance. He hesitated long enough to give the audience warning, then took a dive from the stage, climbing to a standing position above the crowd (pictured above). As he climbed back to the stage he raced by four little boys who were watching from the wings. He stopped long enough to high five them - their faces lit up, but that wasn't the end of their big night.
As the set ended shortly after that, the smaller of Matis' two young sons, who had been watching the show from the side (another son was born in April), grinned, took his father's hand and led him off stage. Matis returned with Hall for an encore that paired beat boxing and acoustic guitar (pictured above). He and his band then launched into "One Day" inviting fans on stage to dance, including those four boys at the side of the stage. With those kids, his own children perched on Hall and his stage tech's shoulders, and fans rushing up from the front, the stage suddenly became a family-friendly packed dance party.
It was a fun set full of sharp musicianship and I'm sure it gave those kids something to talk about at school today.