MATISYAHU with K'NAAN and TREVOR HALL at Phoenix Concert Theatre. Rating: NNNN
A quick glance at the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at the Phoenix and you'd think two worlds just collided: yarmulke-crowned kids jockeyed for sight lines with hiphop heads who were raising their fists to K'Naan anthems.
The main opener didn't disappoint; after Trevor Hall's ballad-heavy set, K'Naan got the party jumping with In the Beginning, book-ended with sick drumming courtesy of the Somali-born rapper. Soobax and ABCs nicely complemented the energetic part of his set, then K'Naan slowed it down with renditions from his upcoming album, Troubador. Most impressionable was the Bob Marley-esque Waving Flag, despite the clichéd lyrics of "When I get older, I will get stronger." Somehow, it worked.
When Matisyahu took the stage, the Hassidic reggae-rapper delivered. The catchy Jerusalem elicited the most squeals at first, but when he dove headfirst into King Without a Crown, the crowd gave Matisyahu the energy he needed to start twirling and dancing on stage. He slowed it down with 15-minute versions of Aish Tamid and Close My Eyes, and then gave it to the catcalls to beatbox.
Matisyahu is no Rahzel or Doug E. Fresh, but he held his own and threw in some nutty fills behind a fat bass line. His new tracks, available only on a $7 EP, also won over most of the audience, especially those moshing (yes, moshing) in the middle of the ground floor.
The concert lagged, though, when Matisyahu relied heavily on his crooning, the kind of stuff you hear at Bar Mitzvahs. Then again, to hear the Hebrew prayer Shema Israel receive thunderous applause brings a tear to the Jewish eye. Matisyahu gave all Jews good reason to start humming Chanukah tunes to a reggae backbeat.