Roots, Rock, Reggae … and Beatbox

January 27th, 2011

Cloud Runner – Mercury Lounge – January 26, 2011

(Photo: Marc Lawrence)

(Photo: Marc Lawrence)

As the snow came down last night, Matisyahu graced the stage at Mercury Lounge for an intimate show billed as Cloud Runner, but thought of as Matisyahu and Friends. Noah Lubin, a singer-songwriter-guitarist who’d met Matisyahu in Jerusalem, was the first friend to appear. The pair did two songs, the second of which, an elegant tune possibly called “Babylon,” is so new they had to read the lyrics off a cell phone.

As Lubin departed, Aaron Dugan (guitar), Jason Fraticelli (bass), Mark Guiliana (“the best drummer in the world,” per Matisyahu) and Rob Marscher (keys) arrived. The crowd gave the guitarist and bassist some good-natured grief for hailing from Philly, and Dugan’s Flyers snow hat occasionally elicited “Let’s go Rangers” chants. Surrounding yourself with four talented musicians is never a mistake, which was proved over nearly two hours of an interesting selection of new songs, covering a larger musical terrain than the usual blend of reggae and hip-hop.

There were definitely some dance numbers that got people moving, but perhaps taking a cue from Matisyahu’s inner Phish fan, the group, at times, was in full-on jam-band mode, with its singer, eyes closed, nodding and swaying to the spaciest parts. Near the end, Lubin returned to play a new tune called “Daniel,” although Matis thought it was titled “The Lion’s Den.” The chorus: “Daniel in the lion’s den/ Where only God can save my soul” revealed the confusion. After a short break, Cloud Runner returned for a rare Mercury Lounge encore and did a really nice take on the Grateful Dead’s “He’s Gone.” And then the smiling fans stepped straight into a storm. —R. Zizmor

(Cloud Runner plays The Bowery Ballroom tonight.)