It has been almost 10 years since Matthew Miller, known by his stage name Matisyahu, broke onto the popular music scene with his sophomore album, “Youth,” with his Top 40 single “King Without a Crown.” Since then, the New York based musician has released three more studio albums as well as four live albums, the most recent of which just came out this October. This album contains six tracks. It’s also over an hour long. Every track is really its own cathartic experience with some tracks extending over 10 minutes long. But don’t worry – those with short attention spans – this album is anything but dragging. Each song is so intricate that they each deserve their own descriptor.
Matisyahu continues the “Live at Stubbs” series with “Live at Stubbs, Vol. III,” and once again shows us he has more to show us than only performing songs from his studio albums. Following the sounds of an excited crowd, the album opens with a rendition of his 2012 song, “Searchin.'” The live version, however, is more stripped down, but a whole minute longer than the studio version. Despite it being naturally less produced than the studio album, this rendition provides a rootsy, groovier feel that is vastly different from the original composition. The signature beat boxing instantly grabs my attention.
The second track, “Lord Raise Me Up,” features another dramatic rendition of an even older Matisyahu song. This particular song has only been heard on the original “Live At Stubbs” release. 10 years later, Matisyahu performs the song with a more immersive style that spans the entire album. This version includes more bass-driven beat boxing and is twice as long as the original release. The instrumentation is entrancing, and I wouldn’t define as ‘jamming’ as much as I would define it as ‘grooving,’ and there is nothing quite like an immersive groove to take over your ears and your mind as you sit back to enjoy it.
Going even further back in time, the live group performs a 13-and-a-half-minute version of the four-minute Bob Marley tune, “Running Away.” What’s different from Marley’s version? Matisyahu provides a more dubby spacey edge compared to the original version. The reverberated guitars and delayed keyboard chords essentially send you into outer space after just a few seconds of listening. Miller delivers Marley’s lyrics with just as much passion. I’ll be careful about comparing Matisyahu to Bob Marley, but I will say that Matisyahu did a great job at molding the song into their own style that should please both Marley and Matisyahu-heads alike. I think Bob would be pleased.
Continuing the precedent of re-inventing lesser known Matisyahu songs, the group performs the track “Warrior.” This track has only been released on the original “Live at Stubbs” album, as well as a studio version made for a compilation album. The studio version is kind of weird – it’s has subtle auto tune in it – something that the live version proves is completely unnecessary. It’s hard to tout which version is better or worse between the original “Live at Stubbs” release and this one, but I do like the spacey dub sound accompanying this newest release because you can dive into it more than the original “Live at Stubbs” release, which sounds a bit more bare-boned.
“So High So Low” comes from the 2009 album release, “Light.” This rendition is about twice as long as the original, featuring less production but a very emotional interlude, where you can hear fans cheering like mad, and super dynamic beat boxing. Lush, reverberated, trippy keyboard sounds emerge out of the mix in the hypnotic interlude placed in the middle of this track. It’s here in the album that I truly wish I could be here as a fan to truly experience the album.
To finish off this gem of a performance, Matisyahu closes with the track that opened them up to the world, “King Without A Crown.” Of course this is much more than a live performance of the original. The almost 17-minute long rendition is incredibly sublimely powerful. You just have to listen to this one to fully know what I mean…the wonderfully infectious qualities that made this song popular to begin with are sprinkled into a full fledged, unified jam that send you to the edge of the earth.
This live album does more than simply show us a live version of popular songs…far more than that. It shows us the dynamic abilities possessed by Matisyahu to take even his own songs and change it up to make it different and arguably even better than the originals. It also introduces us to some Matisyahu jams we may have never heard before. Even though some of the songs performed here are quite a few years old, they would seem fresh to even a die hard fan because the style used on this album is so awesomely different from the original version. Great work from Matisyahu, who has just kicked off a tour that spans coast to coast.