Venue: The Pageant (Delmar Loop, St. Louis)
Lineup: Matisyahu / Murder City Players
A couple years ago, my girlfriend and I went to The Pageant to purchase tickets for The Swell Season. There were a bunch of people in line for a show that night for this guy named Matisyahu. Fast forward to summer 2011. We are now married and also big fans of this Jewish reggae beatboxing rapper. The opening act that night was Murder City Players, a reggae almost-ska group of almost a dozen musicians that seemed like a local band (their name sounds like a reference to St. Louis’s crime reputation). There were two vocalist/emcee’s and also a trumpeter, trombonist, and saxophonist. They had a really good groove and sound.
There was a ridiculous 40 minute wait after they finished, but I guess Matisyahu made up for that by playing for almost two hours. When he first came on stage, he looked older than we were expecting, with a lot of gray hair on his head and beard. Once he took off the sunglasses and outer jacket, though, and got into his groove, he seemed a little younger. He was also wearing a yarmulke. The setlist included a good variety of songs from different albums, and many of them were the ones featured on his latest Live At Stubb’s Vol. II and arranged the same way. The guitarist and bassist had synthesizers next to them and would occasionally plunk on those, experimenting with dubstep and other electronic sounds. Matisyahu did a little of his famous beatboxing that even wandered into dubstep.
At one point (pretty sure it was on “Jerusalem”), Matisyahu motioned for someone at the front of the audience to come up on stage, and he nodded to the security guard that it was OK. It was a cute little Jewish boy with a yarmulke, and he was probably seven or eight. He danced contentedly at the edge of the stage to the cheers of the crowd until Matisyahu convinced him to come to the middle of the stage where he threw him into the crowd. After some impromptu crowd surfing, the boy got back on stage with a worried look on his face, as he put a hand on his head and mouthed, “My yarmulke!” I’m not really sure about the Jewish religious significance of wearing it at all times, but the boy was pretty concerned. Matisyahu wasn’t. He smiled and put a towel from the stage over the boy’s head until the crowd found the yarmulke and got it back onstage and onto the boy’s head.
I didn’t hear some of my personal favorites from Light, like “For You” or “On Nature,” or “Unique Is My Dove” from Youth, but I did hear “I Will Be Light,” (with great crowd participation on the wo-lo-lo lo-lo-lo) and of course, “One Day.” All in all it was a great concert and a wonderful opportunity for knocking Matisyahu off my Top 10 Artists Never Seen Live List.