Sunday, December 16, 2012

Matisyahu @ Terminal 5

Matisyahu; Danny Zamir Band
@ Terminal 5
December 15, 2012 - New York, NY

9 years ago Christmas Eve, I was taken to Southpaw - the now closed Brooklyn club that for a little while was the be-all of New York rock music. I went there on that night to accompany a friend who had become a severely practicing Jew of a highly devout nature. He knew that while yours truly had abandoned everything about my own Judaism except for Yiddish mannerisms and the pastrami on rye, that I was into the rock n' roll music. And here - at this Chanukah show - was a rockin' orthodox (Chasidic even?) Jewish reggae rock punk going by the moniker of Matisyahu. I figured I had a lot to say about that night but the archives tell me I said this:

An orthodox Jewish reggae rapper. I am not kidding. And he was good.

That's it. That's all I had to say. It was true. But that was it. I don't know what mitigated any elaboration: limitations of my affection for reggae rock? The alienating feeling from the orthodoxy around me? It wasn't the fact that he was some mainstream hit. That came later. In fact, I wasn't happy about that. But that was early 2006 and you can see the infantile societal bitterness at work in the shoddy writing.

Now we are almost at 2012. It's Chanukah again. Here we are again. But things have changed and changed again. Matisyahu is residually popular from a moment in the sun. He's also no longer the same kind of Jew. Or is he? He shaved the beard this year and now looks like he's about to manage Arsenal in a league match. But the songs are the same. The entourage remains a mix of professional jammers (Dub Trio), hip hoppers, and yes still a contingent of orthodox/Chasidic practitioners. And while the records have become thoroughly packaged pop music for the suburban youth, the live show still demonstrates that Matthew Paul Miller - gift of god or not - is a good egg with a good soul in the name of good music.

But speaking of that suburban youth. Could be my age and my own personal issues or feelings was a bit off-putting to be surrounded by very large segment of babes-in-the-woods, lost-in-the-city young Americans who appeared to mostly be there for the Born Again-like spirituality of the faith they were born into, meeting their cursory love of Hip Hopped up music. The appearance of underage tramps, who weren't even doing it right, was almost as unacceptable as the appearance of clearly nebbishy Woody Allen-type neurotics thinking they are Mossad bad asses and that somehow justified the popped-up ballcaps twisted to the side and frequent renderings of "yo" peppering their speech. No.

Danny Zamir leads a jazz ensemble, running through a cross of Middle Eastern sounds and Kenny G. He also threw around the "yo"'s but he gets a pass because he actually contributed something to the night.


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