If he’s going to dive into the crowd at his next show at the Crystal Bay Casino, Matisyahu will need to get a running start. Modifications in the Crown Room since his 2017 appearance include a 3-foot wide photographers’ well at the front of the stage.
Weeks away from his 40th birthday, Matisyahu was asked if he still takes leaps of faith during his concerts.
“Very, very, very rarely,” he said. “There is definitely a lot that can go wrong.”
However, the artist who goes by his Hebrew name continues to drop messages of hope, delivered in a roots-reggae, hip-hop style.
The lineup I will have are musicians’ musicians,” he said. “They are very skilled in the improvisational arts.”
The band includes bassist Jason Fraticelli, guitarist Aaron Dugan, keyboardist Rob Marscher and, for this tour, drummer Matt Scarano.
“We are doing a mixture of some of the well-known songs and some of the more obscure ones and then with a heavy, heavy element of improvisation so that the show is usually brand new every night,” he said. “The set list is usually not made until moments before the show.”
Matisyahu hurtled to stardom in 2005 with a No. 1 song, “King without a Crown,” and an improvisational performance with Trey Anastasio in front of 80,000 people at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The Chassidic reggae rapper shocked many of his fans years later when he changed his appearance by shaving his beard and taking off his yarmulke.
His positive messages have always been delivered, including a 2008 hit song, “One Day.” This year, Matisyahu and the artist GRiZ released the tune and video “A New Day,” which features victims and survivors of gun violence.
“I think my message resonates with people,“ he said. “(But) I don’t claim that the songs that I’ve written would make a global impact where you would see less gun violence because of a song that I released 11 years ago. But I do feel that individuals who listen to my music on a much smaller scale than that have benefited and been influenced and hopefully bettered their lives in some way.”
“It is definitely an interesting time that we’re living in. There’s no question. There seems to be so much of a split between those who are really thinking about the future and those who aren’t. But people are changing. There’s no question about it. All the time I hear people talking about climate change who five years ago you would never hear them open their mouth about that type of thing.”
Before his birthday on June 30, there will be changes for Matisyahu, who will get remarried in May. He is taking breaks and performing a bit less, although the summer itinerary is quite packed.
“Forty feels good to me,” he said. “I feel I have a better sense of what’s important and what’s not. I’m looking forward to the music that’s going to be made in these next coming years. I think it’s going to be some of the best stuff that I’ve done yet.”
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room
Red Room after-party: Keyser Soze