It is hard to believe that the clean-shaven, casually-dressed singer on the stage is the same man who once performed in a dark suit, Chasidic beard and black hat.
But Matisyahu has changed, and so has his music. The rap and reggae star, who has left the strictly Orthodox enclave of New York’s Crown Heights for the Los Angeles sunshine, was performing in London to coincide with the release of his album, Spark Seeker.
Matisyahu’s current European tour features some 12 dates in eight countries, so perhaps it was fatigue that led to a slow start.
But the bizarre mix of religious Jews, Rastas and rock lovers who made up the audience came alive to his eventually energetic dancing, crowd-surfing and beat-boxing.
Spark Seeker — a special edition double-disc features 13 new songs as well as some acoustic material — is a lighter, more pop-infused work than his debut album, Youth. But, at the Scala, his fans greeted the fresh numbers, such as Live Like A Warrior, with almost as much enthusiasm as they did classics like Jerusalem.
The gig really took off only when the 33-year-old star emerged for his encore, which featured a rousing rendition of One Day — his biggest global hit to date — and ended with the star dancing alongside tzitzit-wearing fans plucked from the crowd.
The hat and beard may have gone, but Matisyahu’s popularity among this unique mix of gig-goers remains undimmed.
An exclusive acoustic version of ‘Live Like A Warrior’ can be watched