It’s opening weekend at the OC Fair Summer Concert Series, and the crowd is thickening as fans return from a funnel cake run or late comers hurry to find their seats for Matisyahu. I have just arrived and mentally chastised myself for having missed Tribal Seeds’ opening set. I look out at the crowd and see Bob Marley shirts, American flag bandanas, posters with Jewish symbology, and lots and lots of dreadlocks. Families, friends, and couples, both young and old, are ready for some reggae music, and the air smells like waffles and syrup and…other stuff.
I am side stage! Now, let’s be clear. This is not my normal vantage point. Ever. I was lucky enough to snag a last-minute backstage pass from a friend who does business with Matisyahu’s manager, and it’s really enlightening to see a show from an artist’s perspective! So many people centering their eyes and expectations on you. I was actually getting nervous for Matisyahu. But with his adorable kids, loving family, and supportive friends surrounding me, I felt the comfort that he must feel knowing they are nearby, cheering him on.
Then the lights went down low, and I heard Matisyahu’s voice from somewhere off stage. He walked through our little support group and out onto that stage, making it all look so easy. Expertly intertwining well-known biblical references with the struggles of modern day living, the clearly devout musician performed new songs, including “Surrender” and “Star on the Rise,” from his most revealing album to date, Akeda.
The most powerful and intimate moment came during “Vow of Silence” when Matisyahu’s sons joined him on stage and he sang a song written for them directly to them. It was so touching to see the love in his eyes for his children and the way they just danced and played so comfortably on stage. What a fascinating way to grow up! For now, while they are young, they are on tour with their dad, and he makes them a very special part of each performance.
Matisyahu also knows how to make his fans feel important, and he invited them onto the stage for his final inspirational anthem of “One Day.” Fans danced and hugged and took selfies while singing along. The entire night was heartfelt and uplifting. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy a Matisyahu show because, in the end, it is about the hopes, fears, questions, and emotions that ever human experiences, no matter what they believe in.
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