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Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeArriving at the Pabst Theatre to much hype, Matisyahu humbly took the stage in front of a sold out and incredibly diverse crowd, occasionally peeking up to the dark reaches of the third level from underneath his fedora. As he slowly stirred up his brand of dancehall/roots reggae, the likes of which he crafted after becoming devout in the Hasidic Jewish faith, "Time of Your Song" gave Matisyahu, born Matthew Miller, ample time to find his lyrical comfort zone early on, but awkwardly moved about on stage until loosening up later in the set.
Subdued pseudo-dance moves aside, the crowd aggressively followed Matisyahu's every lyrical step and displayed an adept knowledge of his catalog, which often speaks of faith and solidarity and eventually led to Matisyahu using the crowd to fill in entire verses of song. "Chop 'Em Down," from his 2004 debut Shake Off the Dust...Arise, helped boost the energy, with Matisyahu taking breaks to let his talented backing band provide powerful acoustic interludes. "Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth" boasted bass-heavy surges with Matisyahu's infectious phrasing and built up to the night's highest heights. Following with more from his Grammy-nominated 2006 release Youth, "Jerusalem," which included bringing five young kids on stage to feverishly dance about, and then "King Without a Crown," which featured Matisyahu's verbal dexterity and later his physical dexterity in climbing the speakers at the side of the stage and cautiously hopping up and down to end the set, literally left the crowd on high note. A comparatively lame encore offering of the title track from the aforementioned album let much of the wind out of Matisyahu's sail, but not enough to keep many in the crowd from having a bounce in their step as they left the theatre.
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