Matisyahu / Gomez / Street Drum Corp
Okay, I’ll confess. I didn’t know a single Matisyahu song before attending last night’s show at the famed Ryman Auditorium where he was headlining. I was there to see and review British rock band Gomez, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the entire show.
Street Drum Corps was the support to the support, and chances are you’ve never seen anything like this trio of drum-bangers. True to their name, this percussion ensemble hit everything from garbage cans to industrial size plastic containers to fire extinguishers. They did about five numbers that pretty much all sounded the same, but the group was entertaining nonetheless. There were also some weird videos going on in the background at times, but that was only a small part of the band’s act and didn’t really add to or take away from anything.
Gomez was up next. Touring in support of their new album, How We Operate, the band played mostly songs from that release and played them with fire and precision. Alternating lead vocal duties between Ben Ottewell, Ian Ball and Tom Gray, Gomez played all of the best tracks from the new release, including “See the World,” “Notice,” “Girlshapedlovedrug,” and the title track. Gray’s gravelly voice is the most distinguishable, leading the way on “Notice” and “Operate.” The band also played “We Haven’t Turned Around,” which was on the “American Beauty” soundtrack a few years back, and it was one of the highlights of the set.
Gomez didn’t do anything spectacular in their live show. In fact, they are one of those bands that just let the music speak – and it does indeed speak volumes because of its emotive power and because Gomez knows how to bring it live. The crowd, most of which appeared to be waiting for Matisyahu, gave Gomez a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.
Then after about a 45-minute wait, Matisyahu’s band came out—a simple lineup of guitar, bass, keys, drums and percussionist. They started to play, and Matisyahu joined his band to the delight of the crowd, made up mostly of college and high school age kids and Jewish families. Yes, it was quite a sight to see the beanie-clad middle-age Jewish parents with their kids, and difficult to tell in each case who dragged who to the show.
But really, it didn’t matter who was in the audience. Matisyahu impressed everyone with his precision vocal abilities, which ride the fence between reggae and hip-hop, but mostly to the reggae side. In fact, if you closed your eyes, chances are you wouldn’t picture the Orthodox Jewish man on stage, but more likely a rasta-dude akin to Peter Tosh or Bob Marley. And still, Matisyahu is talented enough to stand up to any of those legends. That, and his band was nothing short of spectacular. If you were like me and didn’t recognize the songs, it really didn’t matter because reggae shows can tend to be one long track, and this was no exception.Taken as a whole, this was one hell of a diverse, entertaining and musically excellent show.