Live Report: Matisyahu at The Troubadour

Artists: Matisyahu, Aidan LaPrete

Venue: The Troubadour

Date: December 1, 2021

Famed reggae singer Matisyahu made a return to Los Angeles’ The Troubadour last Wednesday night for his annual Festival of Lights show, celebrating Hannuka, music and good vibes. While looking like a completely different person than when he broke out with his single “King Without a Crown” during his more strict Hasidic days, the performer showed that none of his skills as a singer, rapper or beatboxer have waned over the years.

Opening the show was young artist Aidan LaPrete. Joined by a bassist and drummer, LaPrete’s truncated set included popular covers (Vanessa Carlton‘s “1,000 Miles” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car”), as well as a few originals. While he played an electric acoustic guitar on a couple of his tracks, LaPrete’s brand of indie pop was built mostly around pre-programmed beats and loops that he controlled from the stage, and which gave him an opportunity for some energetic dancing while his band carried the rhythm.

Matisyahu opened his set with his 2021 single “Sunshine”, with his band expertly flowing from the heavier beats during the verses to the “sunny” pop of the chorus. While most casual fans have obviously noticed the external evolution the man has gone through since his debut, as he’s moved away from his stricter Hasidic beliefs and explored himself and his beliefs in less confined ways, his more loyal listeners have also witnessed his artistry grow and morph over the years. While his music is still firmly rooted in traditional reggae (he broke out into a short cover of Bob Marley‘s classic “No Woman, No Cry”), with rock and hip hop having a strong influence, his live set allowed him to share his love for less structured dub-style tunes, as well as psychedelic flourishes.

These aspects could be heart in the live performance of his latest single “Chameleon”. On record a more straight-forward blend of reggae and hip hop, on stage Matisyahu and his band let the melodies breathe and carry over for a trippier effect. Improvisation was also a strong part of his performance, with his band jamming out during his elegiac peace anthem “One Day”, or backing his incredible beatboxing and building that into a unique take on his beautiful song “Jerusalem”.

It was clear that Matisyahu was often vibing to his crack band’s playing, enjoying their playing as much as they did (I think he had the happiest bassist I’ve ever seen). While his energy felt low key at times, he broke out some impressive dance moves of his own during an extended instrumental. He also shared the holiday spirit, playing his songs “Happy Hannuka” and “Miracle” to a very happy audience (especially a very spirited orthodox group at the front of the stage).

And of course, Matisyahu closed his set with his indelible hit “King Without a Crown”, capping off a captivating show which satisfying covered all the bases his audience were looking for (though I certainly would have loved to hear “So Hi, So Lo” in there too).

Check out his latest single “Chameleon” here!

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