Last Night: Matisyahu at The Paramount


Here's what I expect out of a reggae show: machine gun vocals overlaid with beats so contagious you can't help but move. I expect heads bobbing like ducks snapping bread off water and weed smoke as thick as morning fog. I expect couples making out when the lights go down and I expect energy you can feel like chemistry between first loves. But most of all, I expect you to fucking dance.

Matisyahu held up his end of the bargain last night but you Seattlites didn't. You slack-jawed bastards with no rhythm, you watched that man poor his heart and soul out on the Paramount stage and you watched it like you were watching paint dry.

Maybe I’m getting a little worked up here. And in all fairness to you Seattle, you picked it up a few songs into the set. But Matisyahu opened with two of my favorites: Chop ‘em Down and Got No Water, and all I wanted was for everyone in the crowd to be as stoked as I was.

He’s touring on the heels of his 2006 release, Youth, and although I haven’t heard the studio version, it’s obviously a lot more rock-ish than Shake Off the Dust. Actually -- and you purists can slap me here -- with the jam heavy saxophone polishing off every cut, I was reminded, a little, a tiny bit, just maybe, of uh, Dave Matthews. I know, I know. That’s terrible but my companion rolled her eyes and admitted that yeah, she guessed she could see what I was talking about and that yeah, Matisyahu’s show was pretty jam heavy.

That comparison vanished when he sent his drummer and base player off the stage towards the end of the set. With just a keyboarder and a guitar, Matisyahu started beat boxing – and singing over the top of it – all drum and base and vocals and no acoustic guitar and zero swooning. I didn’t think about Dave Matthews again.

He polished off his set with King Without a Crown, stepped off stage, returned and played one last song. In the middle of this last cut, Matisyahu waved to the crowd and left. The guitarist followed, then, a bit later, the bass player, then the keyboarder until all that was left was the dude on drums. One by one he stripped beats – first the snare, then the base drum, then the high hat, then nothing. It was one of the coolest ways to end a show I’ve ever seen.

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