Last night was the fifth night of Summerfest, and the 29th birthday of Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu, who headlined the Miller Lite Oasis in front of a massive crowd. The birthday coincidence was good timing for a Summerfest show because it contributed to the already raging party vibe. (I haven’t smelled that much reefer in the air since Jerry died. Seriously.)
About halfway through the almost two-hour performance, a stagehand brought out a birthday cake and got the audience to sing the "Happy Birthday" song. Although Matisyahu kissed him on the mouth in appreciation, he went on to say, "The Torah says the candle is the soul of God and you should not blow it out, but I’m making a wish."
Matisyahu, along with his five-piece band, blew through a dozen numbers, including "Chop ‘Em Down," the crowd-pleasing "Jerusalem," "Moonlight Twilight," "Time of Your Song," "Lord Raise Me Up" and new songs "I Will be Light" and "So High, So Low."
He also belted out "Slap Me Daft," an autobiographical song about the lack of real-life knowledge provided by conventional high schools and a warning against drugs and alcohol use. "Substance dulls the mind / Traife wine clouds the heart / You can't sew a stitch with one hand / While you're taking it apart."
This song was well received by the crowd, many of whom were young, white teenagers and twentysomethings combined with a fair share of Matisyahu look-alikes. When Matisyahu played at The Pabst Theater last summer, the crowd was more diverse, with a representation of Jewish families and older, die-hard reggae fans peppering the mix.
Matisyahu, born Matthew Paul Miller, is a Hasidic Jew and therefore does not perform on Friday nights to observe the Sabbath. He wears traditional Hasidic clothing, including a yarmulke on his head and massive beard. During last night’s show he donned a white cotton shirt, khaki pants and tennis shoes. Towards the end of the gig, he invited hundreds of fans on stage with him -- calling out "Security, we need more people up here! Yo! Yo! Yo!" -- and when the stage cleared, Matisyahu was left wearing a backwards Packers cap in place of his yarmulke.
Matisyahu promised the crowd a new album this fall or winter. Currently, he has two studio albums and one live album.
The unique combination of devout Jew and reggae superstar makes Matisyahu a fascinating anomaly. His signature stiff, nerdy dancing combined with tremendous beat box abilities and reggae songs that rival his Jamaican counterparts are a seemingly unlikely combination. Still, most critics and fans agree that Matisyahu is the real deal. In 2006, Billboard named him the top reggae artist of the year.
Numerous times throughout the performance, Matisyahu called out for "Peace, peace, peace, peace, peace!" (Perhaps this was his birthday wish.)
Last night’s show was powerful and energized, although it didn’t hold a candle to his aforementioned performance last year where Matisyahu was able to offer more music and more psychedelic stage lighting and affects. Plus, fans received more of a genuine feel from where Matisyahu is coming from and a deeper sense of his spirituality.
But that didn’t matter last night.
The band grinned from ear-to-ear for the entire show -- clearly having a blast -- and Matisyahu never stopped moving his body and mouth while the audience maintained classic Summerfest form: falling off benches, pumping arms into the air and imbibing like the world was ending.
Reggae without marijuana is like Christians against Christ.
I totally agree. Matisyahu was one of the best performances I have seen in a while. He had a lot of energy on stage, the band was tight, and the beat boxing (although rare) was amazing. Last nights price of admission was well worth it if all you did was go to this show. I loved the we need more people on stage! moment. But seriously dont grab a hasidic Jews yarmulke. Also the juxtaposition of the some of his deeply religious lyrics with everyone smoking reefer was humorous, ironic, and quite the adventure in missing the point.
3 comments about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published Dec. 8, 2013
After more than two decades as the national CEO of Public Allies, Paul Schmitz is moving on. But luckily for Milwaukee, he's not moving out.
Published Dec. 7, 2013
During a recent visit to the Hunger Task Force, we spoke with executive director Sherrie Tussler about homelessness, hunger, volunteerism, children, advocacy and dignity. We also talked about bizarre-to-us British canned goods and agreed that Twinkies are not food.
Published Dec. 6, 2013
Caring Santa is a private event at Southridge Mall for children and young adults with special needs who want to visit Santa in an environment that's comfortable for them.
Published Dec. 5, 2013
Perhaps the coolest part of staying at a hotel built inside a former brewery is that it really feels like you're staying at a hotel built inside a former brewery. From the moment we walked into the Brewhouse Inn Suites - in the former Pabst brewhouse - we were swept up in brewing history.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
Brady Street will once again get in on the Festivus action on Saturday, Dec. 7 and attendees will have a chance to air their grievances and participate in feats of strength in an effort to win the highly coveted Festivus pole.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
Splash Studio in the Third Ward announced today that it is in the process of expanding and will more than double the size of the space.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
A couple of months ago, OnMilwaukee.com shared the news that the Walker's Point Youth & Family Center was its charity of choice for Potawatomi's Miracle On Canal Street Program. OnMilwaukee.com continues to support Walker's Point Youth and Family Center beyond the Miracle program, too, and plans to donate a variety of items for the holidays. The organization could use your help, too.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
Some big changes are underway at Lakefront Brewery, but not for the beer.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
This weekend, Justin Carlisle will open an underground, after-hours ramen noodle shop inside Ardent, his restaurant located at 1751 N. Farwell Ave.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
If you're still planning to scoop up local gifts for those luckies on your list, here's another opportunity to do so. On Friday, Dec. 6 the artists in the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St., are hosting a Last Minute Art Show.