Matisyahu Unplugged in Livermore

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Tuesday's show, Matisyahu Unplugged, was an acoustic performance for an audience of over 400 people, sponsored by Chabad of the Tri-Valley. Matisyahu headlined on vocals, accompanied by D.P. Holmes of Dub Trio on guitar, with an opening performance by Josh Cohen, at Livermore's Bankhead Theater.

The atmosphere was full of Chabadniks and other local Jews together for a chill evening. As Matisyahu improvised, receiving thunderous applause upon his arrival, he gave an impression of the mood by saying into the microphone "Hey Rabbi, you told me this was going to be a low-key evening!" Low key it might not have been, but it was a unique opportunity to meet a contemporary musician and a practicing Orthodox Jew.

Advertised at local congregations around the East Bay and beyond, one major draw of this performance was the fact that the Jewish community had the chance to find out what's inside the head of a practicing Jew who is simultaneously following his dream performing music.

The mood was light and "playful," according to Margaret Sawyer, an avid arts enthusiast. Matisyahu's demeanor with the audience between songs showed a side of him that few get to see.  In-between some of the songs, Matisyahu had Q&A sessions, asking participants to state their name, their age, and the animal that they'd like to be. He also asked questioners to think up a name for a never-before-performed song that Matisyahu had premiered that night with D.P. Holmes.

One notable aspect of the show was that many of the songs were completely improvised; portions changed around based on the feel of the moment. Matisyahu talked about how he got into the music scene, and what it was like growing up less observant and then becoming more observant. He also discussed his children and wife, and how he makes new songs, playing some pieces from his upcoming album, Light.

From long time fans to first time listeners, the show was enjoyable on many sides. His lyrics are real and down-to-earth, his presentation is fluid and entertaining, and the message he promotes is one of good faith, charity, and compassion for fellow men.

Matisyahu talked at length about things that affect all people - young, old, and of different ethnicities - in the same way. One fan, Gerald Thomas Cohen, described Matisyahu's music as a reminder of what should not be forgotten. "Like, the fact that there is a higher power than yourself," Cohen said. "[To] stay humble."

Cohen quoted a line from Matisyahu's chart-topping hit King Without a Crown: "If you're trying to stay high / you're bound to stay low / you're trying to find G-d but can't deflate your ego / if your cup's already full then it's bound to overflow." Cohen believed that Matisahu highlighted "all the ballerist things that you'll forget about."

EBAC thanks Chabad of the Tri-Valley for access to this show.

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