City Winery is my type of venue. You get to sit at a spacious table while being serenaded by your favorite performer. What's not to love? It's also the only winery in all of Manhattan. Think wine country meets the big apple. If you like wine, small bites, live music, and not having random fans breathing down your neck, then City Winery is the place for you.
It's safe to say that Matisyahu
has an extremely strong fan base. As I walked into City Winery on Thursday night I anticipated a lot of people at the sold-out venue. Conservative and not-so-conservative Jewish families strolled in with their children by their side. Young Jewish couples had been dining and sipping on their wine. I think I even recognized a couple girls from Yeshiva. But it wasn't all Jewish. People of all backgrounds, ages, and beliefs congregated for Matisyahu's show, and somehow, it was the most humbling crowds I've ever been a part of.
Matisyahu entered the stage with style. Sporting silver dreads, a flannel, skinny jeans and dope kicks, I couldn't help but think how much he has changed over the years. The once Hasidic reggae superstar is now much more secular, free-spirited performer.
The reggae rapper authentically took his time setting up on stage, almost as if he hadn't planned a set list. He opened with Bob Marley's, "Burnin and Lootin'," a timeless reggae classic with a slow syncopated rhythm. He made the song his own by beat boxing to a melodic electric guitar strum.
I was happy to hear a lot of Matisyahu's older stuff. He happened to play a couple songs from his 2009 album, Light,
like "Thunder" and "Struggla." "Thunder" has a chorus reminiscent of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, with sultry vocals and heavy emphasis on a melody. Eyes closed, swaying on a stool, Matisyahu almost looked like he was singing for and to himself. Beaming psychedelic colored lights seeped from the stage during "Struggla." The seated crowd would sing along to "And I struggle every day just to get myself up."
The rasta-rapper was on for about two solid hours. He sang (and beat-boxed) his way through almost every album he had ever created. I heard "Surrender," (from Akeda
, 2014) with lyrics that paint a vivid picture and will probably make you re-evaluate your life. I even heard "Dispatch The Troops," (Youth,
2006), a tune I forgot I used to listen to.
My favorite moment was when I heard "Shade From The Sun" from his 2016 EP, Release The Bound
. At this point in time, (an hour and a half through the set), women were up and dancing in various corners of the usually seated restaurant/winery. Even Matisyahu at some points would get up from his stool to show off some expressive dance moves. Release The Bound
consists of free-spirited, un-chained story straight from his soul, expressing the singer/songwriter's needs, wants, and future plans.
Matisyahu was once known as the Hasidic rapper, but now not so much. While he has drastically changed in his appearance, his musical style has stayed true to who he is as a performer. With Matisyahu, you never know what songs you're going to get. However, in this case, I got a lot. If you happened to miss the sold-out show at City Winery, we recently did soulful and laid-back NEXT Session and interview with the reggae vocalist that will be out very soon. Stay tuned!