Mizner Park Amphitheatre, Boca Raton
Saturday, December 18, 2010
"Matisyahu is an amazing artist with traits and talents that no other singer has today. That is why I think he is amazing." These words came from the mouth of a 9 year-old fan with one of the best seats in the house Saturday night at the show featured on the cover of this week's New Times. He was either the most eloquently spoken young man I have ever met (which I am leaning towards) or Matisyahu's music is so profoundly inspiring that it gave him magical music insight. Welcome to Fedstock.
The rain fell for several hours before the sky opened up in time for the night's festivities to commence. An hour before Matisyahu was to take the stage, small swarms of teenage fans were sporadically dropped off by their anxious parents. Ages 2 to 92 were welcomed with open arms to take in the opening act of the weekend long festivities. It was comfortably cool and stars lit up the South Florida sky overhead.
There was no opening act, and that was a good thing as the anticipation for the Hebrew headliner was palpable in the crowd from the start. Brooklyn's own Dub Trio took the stage to valiantly provide Matisyahu with the background bass, beats and rhythm for the night. With Joe Tomino on the drums, Stu Brooks on the bass and D.P. Holmes on the guitar, the funk began to flow freely before the solemn sounds of Matisyahu began to emanate from just off the stage. His not-so silent prayers were heard booming from the speakers into the night sky before he broke out into his new single Sunshine, and the Florida crowd seemed to immediately embrace the song, claiming it for their summer anthem.
Dressed in grey slacks, a crisp white dress shirt and some running shoes, Matisyahu looked like anything but a rapping reggae superstar. More like your accountant, lawyer or most definitely your rabbi with his yarmulke and prayer shawl tucked underneath his shirt, the 31-year old Pennsylvania native and transplanted New Yorker literally has an old-school vibe. His graying beard ages him almost a decade, but somehow his youthful nature manages to shine through the second he takes the stage.
The energy emanating from the stage was electrifying from the start. He performed "Darkness Into Light," a track included on his new album Live At Stubb's Vol. 2, every man, woman and child were waving their hands in the air in support of the tremendously uplifting message presented by the revered reggae singing rapper extraordinaire. He danced across the stage like a spinning top, bouncing back and forth with the essence of the entire crowd behind him. He slowed and sped up the pace with elegant ease. Thousands of people collectively chanted his lovable lyrics from the top of their lungs.
They exalted his presence during his rendition of "Exaltation" and revered his deep-rooted respect for his homeland with an amazing anthem of Jerusalem. The new songs that had never graced their gracious ears before tonight were welcomed like the holiday season itself. When he changed gears to the old classics circa 2005, the familiar sounds came blasting through the skies and were soaked up with eagerly anticipation by the eclectic crowd. It felt as if the sky was going to explode into actual music that you could hear and taste and feel.
As Matisyahu broke into beat-boxing, it was clear his prowess is nearly unmatched. After a smattering of new music to delight the senses and a steady dose of old favorites, the set finished strong with fan favorites "Chop 'Em Down" and "One Day" to much delight. Sightings of crowd surfers could be seen in the grass beyond the select seating, and even those up close were out of their seats more than in. He made a brief exit before returning to chants for more and excited the crowd with a stirring finale of "King Without a Crown."
The crowd lingered after the festivities were over, with the second story balconies some of the last to trickle out. A well kept secret to the public, the philanthropic superstar also stuck around to greet a small group of young children and teens, to spread his message of community service and spiritual responsibility. It was a show that will not be soon forgotten in the Jewish community and most of all the hip-hop community here in South Florida.
Personal bias: Matisyahu is hands down, one of my favorite artists and performers. I don't know if it's the amazing music or the spiritual message, but something special happens every time I see him perform.
The crowd: There was everyone from newborn babies to great-great grandmothers in the eclectic crowd in Boca Raton. While many snowbirds of the Jewish persuasion live in the area, it was the welcoming message and alluring sounds that brought the cross-generational group together on Saturday night.
Overheard: "He looks like my rabbi. Does he rap in Hebrew?"
Random detail: The show was advertised as a non-alcohol show, but upon arrival I saw giant banners advertising L'Chaim Kosher Vodka with Matisyahu's mug front and center. To Life!!
Origins: Two days of love and nachas. For those of you non-Yiddish speakers such
as myself, "nachas" means joy and blessings. Cindy Orbach Nimhauser and
Andrew Rose of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, along
with several community based sponsors organized this first annual celebration
Saturday night at the Count de Hornle Amphitheatre at the Schmidt Family
Centre for the Arts in Mizner Park.
Darkness Into Light
Open The Gates
King Without A Crown