Matisyahu with The Dirty Heads – Soundwaves Pool @ Hard Rock Hotel
The Dirty Heads kicked off the good vibes with their rock/reggae/hip hop grooves for the beach ball-throwing kids mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. The Dirty Heads with their own fan-base got the crowd dancing and swaying to the hits; “Spread Too Thin” and “Lay Me Down.” The Dirty Heads were solid.
Without his usual skullcap, dark long beard and conservative black and white clothing and tallis or ‘prayer shawl’, Matisyahu walked through the crowd unnoticed as he hopped on stage wearing a white tee-shirt and blue jeans. Many fans were still unaware of his new lighter-colored hair and clean-shaven appearance. He seemed to have a fresh outlook on life as he reached out at one point to go crowd-surfing. It was a good show, but was crowd-surfing and beat-boxing enough to satisfy true fans?
In early December 2011, Matisyahu shocked the music industry with a new look and not going by the ‘Hasidic reggae superstar.’ He hasn’t shed his Jewish beliefs as much as redefined them for himself.
Matisyahu has experimented with different styles of music and other artists (ex. The Chemical Brothers 2009’s “Drown in the Now”). With his new look and new album, “Spark Seeker,” perhaps his transition is a struggle to find a new identity and a wider audience. His updated look doesn’t mean he’s changed much on the inside. He‘s shed all labels. He just wants to be known as a musician or artist.
My friend (KOMP’s @thehangingchad) and I decided to watch from the upper level. Unbeknownst to us, Matisyahu and his small entourage were hanging out in a cabana nearby before the show. Every once in a while, Matisyahu would exit and walk somewhere with whom I’m guessing was his son, about six years old.
During the show, I actually spoke to a guy with a long, dark, scruffy beard who called himself Kool Kojak. He turned out to be the Co-Writer/Producer on Matisyahu’s current “Spark Seeker” album. Kojak told me Matisyahu grew tired of some the restrictions of Hasidic life. He wanted to embrace his female fans as much as his male fans. That was not allowed in his Hasidic faith.
American Jews and non-Jews alike have identified with Matisyahu’s messages of faith in his lyrics. What made him so inspirational when he first came on the scene was the feeling in his voice when he sang with all his emotion and spirit. His earlier music sang out with such conviction. That magic was not present at this show.
This show was nothing like the first three times I saw him about six years ago. Matisyahu sang some of the old songs; “Time of Your Song,” “Jerusalem” and “King Without a Crown.” There was a slight edginess and a faster tempo to the old songs that lost their original appeal.
At the end, Matisyahu invited fans to climb on stage during “One Day.” And as unnoticed as he entered the stage initially, Matishayu snuck off the crowded stage and back into obscurity. He returned to the very same cabana. I was able to tell him, “Good show!” And it was a good show.