The Second Crazy Night

December 21st, 2011

Matisyahu – Music Hall of Williamsburg – December 20, 2011

If anything, 2011 has been a year of many unsuspected news stories—leaders of countries have fallen, protests filled streets around the world and Matisyahu shaved his iconic beard. Call it the tweet heard ’round the world, as last Tuesday Matisyahu shared a picture of his newly shaven face on Twitter, leaving many fans wondering if this marked the end of his 10-year association with Chassidic Judaism. But beard or no beard, Matisyahu proved on Tuesday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg that his Jewish faith is still integral to his life, pulling out all the stops to celebrate Hanukkah on his second of eight shows scheduled to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

And what better way to celebrate the Festival of Lights than with a gigantic disco ball dreidel that splashed the Music Hall with a beautiful ocean of color, bringing everyone in the room to pull out their phones and snap pictures of this most epic of dreidels? Top it all off with the lighting of a waist-high menorah, Matisyahu twirling around the stage like a skanking ballet dancer and the general feeling of joyous revelry and you’ve got one hell of a Hanukkah celebration. With all this excitement, it may have been easy to overlook Matisyahu’s music. But the sheer dynamism of his genre-blurring set was a spectacle in itself. Jumping from moments of reggae, rap, guitar jams, dub, dubstep and back (sometimes in the same song), Matisyahu’s ability to find the intersection of these genres has long been described as his greatest musical asset. Much to his credit, Matisyahu’s drummer Joe Tomino did a superb job holding together the band through this journey of genres.

Perhaps as a result of this eclectic mix of genres, the crowd was equally eclectic—a healthy mix of dreadlocks and yarmulkes, fans both young and old of all races, backgrounds and creeds. Matis’s set featured a well-spread sampling of his seven-year career, playing favorites “King Without a Crown,” “Jerusalem” and “One Day.” He kicked off his encore beatboxing over a cellist he met in the subway on the way to the concert. Likely improvised, it was strikingly beautiful. And whatever this new beardless phase means for his spiritual development, it seems that in every other way Matisyahu still has a strong grasp on his musical virtuosity that fans from all walks of life have learned to love. —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Dan Rickershauser