Strip away the layers and reveal your soul
Give yourself up and then you become whole - "King without a Crown"
Beardless and wearing a raincoat instead of his Hasidic garb, Matisyahu took the stage at the Sheridan Opera House this past Friday to an expectant crowd. The drastic change in his look and sound came as a bit of a shock for us who have been listening to Matisyahu since his 2006 debut album, Youth. Gone are the days of the suit and black hat, his peusringlets keeping time with belted versions of traditional Hebrew prayers. Somewhere between smooth R&B, reggae, trancy electro, heavy guitar rock riffs, and Yiddish pop music is Matisyahu’s new sound.
And boy did he deliver. The best part of the show was that I had no idea what was coming next. He started with his up-tempo single “Sunshine” that got the crowd grooving, then really hit the trance and electric guitars hard, and ended with some beat-boxing and a crowd-surfing encore of “One Day”. I found myself dancing along with distinctly Israeli and Arab beats as well as heavy rock guitar solos, smooth reggae vibes, and electronic heavy bass.
The small size of the Sheridan Opera House lends itself to intimate performances and the opportunity for the artist to really connect with the audience. And Matisyahu truly took full advantage of that. It was so obvious how much he truly believed in his lyrics and his music. He gave an authentic and utterly unself-conscious performance that could only have been so powerful in a space like the Sheridan Opera House where the floor and the walls seem to move along with the crowd.
As different as his new sound may be, one of the most potent aspects of his music that Matisyahu has not put aside is his use of the mystical Hasidic mode of wordless storytelling. And I was hypnotized. The electronics beats and his organic wailed melodies reverberated off the walls and up through the balcony of the Opera House. I doubt that the architects who built the theater in 1913 anticipated Matisyahu’s arrival; but Matisyahu’s invocation of the past through his sound and lyrics to shed light on the present perfectly complemented the legacy of the Sheridan Opera House. Here in Telluride, we live amidst a rich history and a vibrant present. And the Sheridan Opera House and its continued use throughout its almost 100 year existence is the epitome of this paradigm. A show at the Sheridan Opera House is an experience that is absolutely not to be missed. My first show at the Opera House was unforgettable and I cannot wait to go back.