Matisyahu Unplugged: "I Feel Like the Other Sides of My Personality Come Out In These Shows"
Since "King Without A Crown" hit the Top 40 chart in 2005 and the world received a formal introduction to his Hasidic rock and reggae explorations, Matisyahu has observed Hanukkah with a handful of shows in and around New York City. This year, he took his Festival of Light on the road, kicking off the celebratory tour in San Francisco before booking it across the country to play every major city on the eastern seaboard for each of Hanukkah's eight nights. The Festival of Light tour incorporates the simultaneously bombastic and ethereal aplomb that Matisyahu has built his reputation on, but lately he's been working more stripped-down arrangements into the set list, and he'll take the unplugged approach to a new level with an acoustic tour and Spark Seeker: The Acoustic EP this January.
Matisyahu performs tomorrow, Dec. 15, at Terminal 5.
"Last night, we did something new--we had a cello player and he's going to be with me for the tour coming up as well," he says in between shows earlier this week. "The kids, they all know the Hanukkah songs that I just released, which is cool. The Festival of Light tour is half and half rock show/acoustic set, with 50 percent of the show performed with a full band. My music has a spiritual connection to it, so it's a cool thing to give people something to do on Hanukkah--my show is a place to go party and have fun and connect."
What's the most enjoyable aspect of touring around this time of year?
When I make music, I do it as a celebration--it's fun, but Hanukkah has this depth to it, and we light the menorah onstage, and that's beautiful, and then we got the disco ball dreidel, so that's fun. It's a combination of spirituality and music and God, but also having a good time while bringing those things together.
Where did the idea for the acoustic tour come from?
Well, the truth is, we did some acoustic shows, and the turnouts were really big. A lot of people come to those shows, so we just decided to do a full run like that. it's a little bit nicer in that we play in nicer theaters, kind of more stripped down. It allows for different types of people to come; not just the people who would come to a regular rock show at a club, but all the people who want to bring their kids. The style is totally different. It features more of the voice. I'm performing with a cello, and it's really pretty. There's a lot of improvisation because I do the beatboxing and all that, but there's still a big improvisational element like in my rock show. It's not just that it's stripped down, it has a certain spirituality to it and it's a completely different musical experience. As an artist, it's great, to be able to make my songs and make my music in different modes and different ways.
Are there any songs that have transformed in this new format for you, especially?In particular, with "Crossroads," the first song on Spark Seeker and the first song I've been performing live, we change it--everything just slows down, it's more drawn out, I'm able to sing more. It still has all the elements of the rock show. I'm still rapping, there's still reggae and beatboxing and all that; it just comes out in a completely different way.