Matisyahu performs at The Loft, uses his religion to inspire music
A stroll down Michigan Avenue at 7 p.m. on Saturday night would have provided the usual suspects: bus stop passengers, bar crawls and businessmen sitting down for a late dinner.
Integrating into the usual downtown Lansing happenings were the sounds of Matisyahu seeping out of the windows of The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing.
For the reggae performer’s first Lansing concert, he was warmly received by those attending the sold-out show. Doctoral student Daniel Roberts said he has been following Matisyahu’s career for the past 10 years and was happy to finally have an opportunity to attend a live performance.
“(Performers) like (Matisyahu ) usually never come to Lansing, so this is quite a significant event,” Roberts said. “I’ve wanted to (see him), but he’s always playing in places like Detroit, Grand Rapids (and) Chicago .”
Fusion Shows was responsible for securing Saturday’s show, and although he had never performed in Lansing, organizers said they expected the show to sell out.
Fusion Shows co-owner and head of marketing and production Irving Ronk said the show sold out days before the concert.
He said Matisyahu’s unique sound attracted a new crowd to the venue.
“It’s kind of like a reggae, but with, like, a rock band behind it,” Ronk said. “I think that he’s really original and his sound is different than pretty much anything else out there. He really draws a lot of his content from Judaism, and that in itself, contentwise, has drawn a lot of people to come see his live shows.”
Roberts said the inspiration Matisyahu pulls from his religion gives listeners something different.
“I think his image is unique; that he’s a Hasidic Jew who does reggae — that’s something fresh,” he said.
In 2011, Matisyahu informed his fans and followers that he no longer considers himself Hasidic.
Since then, graduate student Simon Mentzer said Matisyahu’s music has changed.
Mentzer said the change in sound didn’t affect the quality of the music.
“He’s not Hasidic anymore; when he first came out, (his music) was a lot slower (with) more chanting,” he said. “He’s got a lot more hip-hop to him now, a little more pop-y. I like it either way; I liked him in the beginning, and I like him now.”
Ronk said Matisyahu and his lighting team produced a great performance, but they weren’t the only contributors to the success of the evening.
“It was really energetic; the entire show, everyone had their hands up and were clapping along,” he said. “Stuff like that is the reason people go to concerts.”
Saturday’s performance might be considered The Loft’s best production thus far, according to Ronk.
“The crowd was great, and the music was great — that’s what we do it for.”