Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Matisyahu at the Howlin' Wolf - Unfortunately Lackluster

Last Thursday I found out about a relatively unpublicized Matisyahu show. It wasn't listed on WWOZ or Nola.com or even Offbeat. I actually found out about it from a flyer left lying around on Loyola University's St. Charles campus. I figured, what the hell, I love seeing new music and $10 isn't bad at all.

As I arrived at the Howlin' Wolf, I saw a line of college kids down half the block. I didn't have to wait for more than ten minutes though, which was fine since the management had decided to make the venue non smoking (still not sure if it was just for that night or a new policy. Any ideas?) and I wanted to have a smoke before I got inside.

While I was buying a drink I barely paid attention to what I thought was the set break music. Then I turned around and realized that it was Matisyahu and his band.

I can't put my finger on what exactly went wrong at this show. The whole building lacked energy. Matisyahu looked bored on stage. Granted, I've never seen him play before, so maybe he's usually that static when he performs. From a technical viewpoint he was fine. He sang well and could spit like crazy. The quality of his overall sound was exactly what I'd expect to hear live after listening to a few of his recorded songs. I actually enjoy the way he meshes rock and reggae, too; so it wasn't the genre itself.

His band was also technically sound. They were all obviously pro and I couldn't hear one thing wrong with the instrumentation. For awhile though, I felt a strange disconnect between Matisyahu and his band. They were both playing the same song, but it sounded like they were playing two separate versions of it or they were milliseconds off from each other. The drummer was killing it though, so I just zoned in on him for awhile.

The crowd was young. I know a lot of the students got free tickets and I wonder how many people were there because they like Matisyahu and how many were there because it was a free/cheap show and they knew people who were going. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; I support going out to see music for any reason. Still, a large portion the audience didn't show a whole bunch of interest in the show. That also could have been because they felt the way I did about the band, but then we're getting into a chicken and egg scenario.

Overall I was disappointed. If he rolls back through town I'd probably give him another shot, but on Thursday I didn't even bother to stay for the last few songs.

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