Matisyahu brought his songwriting, beatboxing best to DC’s City Winery on Aug. 7. The artist seemed to relish the intimate setting, treating the audience to a career-spanning set, and bringing his children onstage for a familial rendition of his hit song, “One Day.”
Sporting a full beard and kippah, Matisyahu — the Hebrew name of Matthew Paul Miller — first burst onto the music scene with his 2005 Top 40 single, “King Without a Crown.” While he is no longer Orthodox, Jewish motifs have remained a significant part of his music throughout his career.
Following shows at other City Winery locations, Matisyahu will be performing at Virginia Beach’s East Coast Surfing Championship on Aug. 25 and Lockn’ Festival, taking place Aug. 26 in Arrington, Virginia.
Matisyahu’s performance at the Ivy City venue was billed as an intimate evening and did not disappoint. Sporting a casual flannel shirt and jeans, he was joined onstage by Aaron Dugan on guitar and Jason Fraticelli on bass, both members of his regular touring crew.
The night kicked off with a lengthy version of “Step Out Into The Light,” a track off of Matisyahu’s 2017 record “Undercurrent,” which allowed him to showcase his beatboxing skills over Dugan’s heady guitar riffs and Fraticelli’s masterful bass lines.
The trio then treated the crowd to a back-to-back performance of two of the evening’s most awaited tracks, “One Day” and “King Without a Crown.”
For “One Day,” Matisyahu’s three sons — Menachem, Shalom, and Laivy — joined the musicians onstage. The crowd cheered as Shalom performed the song’s first verse, with Menachem topping off the cameo with a beatbox freestyle of his own.
The next highlight came when Matisyahu treated the audience to a memorable performance of his hit song “Jerusalem (if I forget you).” The trio also conjured the artist’s reggae-infused past, performing a short rendition of Bob Marley’s “Running Away.”
Matisyahu intermittently conversed with the crowd throughout the show and seemed to be fully in his element. Joking with audience members, the artist told them not to worry, as some of their song requests are already on the setlist.
The trio capped off the night with “Sunshine,” a fan favorite off of Matisyahu’s 2012 album, “Spark Seeker.” Dugan and Fraticelli remained onstage after the show, taking pictures and conversing with fans as they packed up their gear.
John O’Neill, program director at City Winery DC, said that giving both artists and audience members the chance to appreciate music in a more personable setting is part of the venue’s mission.
“It’s one thing to hang out in a field with 10,000 people,” O’Neill said. “It’s another to see a really good artist playing right in front of you.”
Patty Hurtarte, a resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland, said she cherished the opportunity to see Matisyahu perform live after years of listening to his music.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I knew his music from back when he first started, but this is the first time that I’m seeing him perform live.”
According to Dugan, the touring musicians equally enjoyed the downtempo evening.
With six studio albums and four live albums under his belt, Matisyahu has leveraged his early fame to build a devout following. His first live album, “Live at Stubbs,” recorded in Austin, Texas in 2005, solidified his reputation as a unique live performer.
By Anis Modi
Anis Modi is a staff reporter for Kol HaBirah. Born and raised in Israel, he currently writes for several DC-based publications while pursuing his master’s degree at American University.