Matisyahu @ Horizon Records & The Handlebar

Written By: Victor Alfieri

November 12, 2009 – Greenville, SC – So a Hasidic Jew, reggae/rock/rapper walks into a bar in the “Bible Belt…” No, this is not the beginning of a joke. When Matthew Miller, AKA Matisyahu, rolled into Greenville, SC, I’m sure he had no idea what to expect. There were probably even questions in advance as to how this ended up a stop on his “Light Tour.” After all this town is truly right in the middle of the “Bible Belt” and the Jewish community is limited at best.

What he experienced may have a long-lasting effect on us all. As he has been doing in most cities, he started the evening with a free show to give the fans a taste of what was to come. Horizon Records is a beacon of light in the music industry; an independent music store that has fought the establishment for over 30 years. It was here that the evening started. The store was overwhelmed. The crowd actually spilled out into the parking lot.

What was most intriguing about this crowd was who was in it. Young children, frat boys, dreadlocked hippies and old Jewish ladies had come together to hear a special blend of music that apparently crossed all sorts of cultures, ages, genres and pre-conceived notions. Matisyahu was visibly touched by the attendance. At his suggestion, doors and windows were opened so the crowd outside could hear.

The short set was not quite “unplugged,” but scaled down considerably as he was joined by just the two guitarists and bass player. Matisyahu took care of the percussion himself using his beatbox talents to fill the gaps. The set list focused on the recent album, as well as one track that did not make the cut. The arrangements were subdued and lyrics more heartfelt. It was just a taste of what was to come…

Matisyahu brought his “A” game for the main event that evening, and the sold out crowd at The Handlebar were up for the challenge. Backing him was a stage full of amazing musicians that deserve spotlights of their own. Aaron Dugan (guitar) & Rob Marscher (keyboards), official members of the Matisyahu entity have teamed up with the Dub Trio on this tour. DT, consisting of DP Holmes (guitar), Stu Brooks (bass) & Joe Tomino (drums), are known for their ability to also blend genres seamlessly and, as witnessed, have the ability to bring the funk.

Ripping bass lines and percussion, battling guitar riffs, combined with dubs, samples and keyboard play set the stage for the man in the spotlight and he did not disappoint. For over two hours, the band shifted from rock, to reggae, to funk, all while Matisyahu pounded his positive lyrics and beatbox talents at the crowd. From the first note, the crowd was with him, and as the level of emotion went higher, we all followed as he covered songs, both popular and obscure. “King Without a Crown” and many of the newer songs were big hits with those in attendance.

As the show came to a close, the crowd was frantic and called for the obligatory encore. Special guest Kosha Dillz came out and freestyle rapped for a while about anything that the crowd threw up on stage, including a prescription pill container and somebody’s wallet. The night was set for one final push over the edge. A prolonged version of “One Day,” the current hit off of Light with a stage dive from Matisyahu put the exclamation point on an amazing night.

The crowd was not quite as diverse as the earlier free show, but there were still a few kids out way past there bedtime as well as a few old Jewish ladies sitting in the back. I think the town did the artist justice and I hope it will make him want to come back in the future. As he continues his tour, if he comes to your town, it is truly in your best interest to go see this show. The Matisyahu/Dub Trio combination is worth every penny and then some.

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