It was hard to not imagine Matisyahu as Moses during his concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sunday.
The American reggae star, who is also a Hasidic Jew, is best-known for applying new beats to the Old Testament, creating catchy sounds that any person from any belief, nonbelief and musical leanings can appreciate.
And yet, as he swept over the stage with a commanding but humble presence, his white hair radiating at the young age of 31, it was like the singer just had an encounter with a burning bush and was trying to communicate it to the sea of concertgoers.
Matisyahu is pictured at the inaugural Republik Music Festival at the MACC on Sunday
Aubrey Hord Photography
His lyrics, which are upbeat and positive, transformed into beats themselves. And the heart-throbbing thuds of bass took over, sparking a celebratory reception from the crowd as it moved to the chantlike dancehall reggae.
Brooklyn's Dub Trio, which backs Matisyahu, had an equally stunning performance, enhancing the singer's message with pulsating waves of sound.
Performing under the Hebrew version of his birth name, Matthew Miller, Matisyahu, who was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in New York, hails a strong international following for his reggae, hip-hop, pop-rock fusions. His popularity skyrocketed after his second CD, "Live at the Stubbs." And his Grammy-nominated third album, "Youth," sold 120,000 copies in its first week. "One Day," from his 2009 album, "Light," was used by NBC to promote the 2010 Winter Olympics. A new album is set for release next year.
For some, Matisyahu was the highlight of the Republik Music Festival concert, the inaugural reggae fest presented by Oahu's BAMP Project to mark Hard Rock Cafe's 40th anniversary. The Green, The Dirty Heads, Rebelution and headliner Steel Pulse also played, generating equal enthusiasm from the audience, which spilled through the majority of the MACC's relatively new Yokouchi Pavilion. Of course, there was no stopping the skanking once local favorite U.K.-based Steel Pulse played their hits, "Steppin' Out," "Roller Skates" and "Taxi Driver."
In the end, the beats from each band created the environment that good reggae shows tend to do - one where positivity and all-around good vibes trump the drinking and smoking, and everyone comes together to bob as one large, unified group, whether Old Testament teachings came to mind or not.
- Kehaulani Cerizo