Matisyahu dropped into Sacramento’s Ace of Spades this weekend with his beloved style of reggae, hip hop, dub and beat-box sounds. This would be the first stop in over a span of 7 years or so that the 40-year-old world renown musician would perform without his beloved Dub Trio band.
The phenomenal instrumental assassins who helped him re-imagine his career, prior to the release of 2012’s ‘Spark Seeker,’ are currently touring in Europe to promote their fantastic album, ‘The Shape of Dub to Come.’
Opening the show were Bedouin Soundclash who are currently based in Toronto. The band recently released ‘Mass,’ their first album in over a decade. It features their post-punk, world-beat tendencies flavored with some New Orleans jazz, afro-pop, electronic and gospel. The group brought good energy to their brief opening set on this night with a blend of new and older songs.
Next up was the headliner, who on this Sunday night had guitarist Aaron Dugan onstage. The fiery player, who goes back to the vocalist’s early days. He is featured on many of Matisyahu’s early works including ‘Youth’ and ‘Live at Stubbs.’ Dugan has also been part of the last couple of Matisyahu tours with the Dub Trio.
Dugan was paired with bassist Jason Fraticelli, who was with the vocalist from 2007-2009. Fraticelli is a formidable player. He is also a composer and multi-instrumentalist. He brought a strong presence to the stage, manically holding down the low end. (At press time, the name of the drummer on this tour was unknown.)
The show opened with 2016’s the deliberately paced “Love Born,” a solid track co-written with Dub’s Stu Brooks. It is one of the more recent songs that was played in a night that revisited many of the standards in Matisyahu’s musical cannon. The band also played “Warrior,” “King Without A Crown” and “Jerusalum,” as well as “Youth,” which are all staples in any Matisyahu greatest hits collection.
As the show progressed, the singer continued an improvisational approach to the live performance that had started with his collaborations with Dub Trio. There was beat-boxing here, slowing down the songs to a Dub crawl at other points, then picking things up again to a faster tempo. This occurred intermittently as the set continued.
At some point it felt as if things were falling into a pattern of deliberately slow introductions, speeding up to their normal tempo, then slowing them down again. This became predictable after a while, but after a certain amount of repetition, some rough edges became noticeable in the transitions. It would be unfair to compare this band to the Dub Trio, but it would have been refreshing to hear Matisyahu try a different approach with this current group. Perhaps it was all in the spirit of improvisation.
However, one moment that was particularly jarring was when the crowd seemed lost when an unrecognizable “Sunshine” started and then snapped into recognition when it sped up and suddenly recognition kicked in with the crowd and phones came up into video position immediately.
Perhaps only a few noticed this, because the crowd seemed to love the show.
Some in the crowd had traveled long distances on a Sunday night to see the show, regardless of having to wake early the next day. There were youngsters in attendance with their parents as well as a few younger ones with grandparents.
It’s important to note Matisyahu’s international impact and appeal. When he closed the night with “One Day,” there was an instant reminder that this song was used as a teaser for the summer Olympics a few years back by NBC. Now recognized worldwide, it’s a beautiful song with a great message.
It will be interesting to watch how things progress in the future for this Matisyahu. Reportedly there is a new album in the works with the Dub Trio. His positive influence on the world and particularly in the modern reggae communities will undoubtedly continue into the future as he navigates into new sounds. Whatever happens, he continues to have a strong following of people who are moved by his music, in whatever form it is taking.
Photos by Paul Piazza