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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Matisyahu @ Miller Lite Oasis

Monday, June 30, 2008

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  At first, Matthew “Matisyahu” Miller appears an unlikely a reggae savior, but by this point, the self-proclaimed former Deadhead turned Chassid has probably gotten used to the burden of proving that appearances can be deceiving.

Still, when Miller first set foot before the noticeably packed Summerfest crowd, he seemed to stutter slightly, as if for a moment even he had trouble taking his success seriously. Thankfully, with the onset of “Jerusalem,” came an energetic return to the spiritually based performances of 2006’s Live at Stubbs, the breakthrough album which garnered as many humorously confused stares as it did critical acclaim.

Continually, Miller shows that his Jewish ardent faith, like his reggae roots, serves only as a premise for his style, which channels as much Detroit as Kingston.

Prog-rock guitar pervaded marathon renditions of “Chop ’Em Down,” and other selections, while still clicking with the show’s casual vibe.

Performing on his 29th birthday, Miller seemed almost reflective of his short, accomplished career. He dwelled in extended jams of lesser known songs, while hits like “King Without a Crown,” felt shortened and tacked-on.

At one point, a cake was presented. A flattered Miller politely declined blowing out the candles on religious grounds, quoting the Torah.

Instead, he took the opportunity to preview material from his slightly overdue third album, including the euphorically anthemic “I Will Be Light,” which Miller laconically described as pure “love music.”

Miller certainly showed no shortage of love for the crowd, inviting nearly 50 people on stage during the finale, even sporting a Packers cap over his yarmulke.

Although the spirituality of his music was ironically rebutted by some fans that epitomize the very same youthful lifestyles he so desperately tries to break with, Matisyahu once again proved himself a sincere artist beyond gimmick, and more often, beyond label.