Once again the heat in Chicago rose to the upper nineties on this early August night and what better way to sweat it out then going to one of the cavernous venues in Chicago for a hot and sweaty reggae show. The venue was pretty full when I arrived at the end of the opening band, Moon Taxi. Right there I knew it was a sign for a humid and nasty concert. The congress is not even close to as bad as the Aragon is as far as air flow and how hot it can get but it rivaled it tonight.
I was very surprised to see the anticipation in the crowd awaiting The Dirty Heads. I have to admit I didn’t really know much about them going into this show. I had no idea they had a decent following and some crazy fans. As soon as they ripped into their first song the whole crowd was bouncing and waving their arms. If you are unfamiliar The Dirty Heads are a reggae/hip hop infused band. Think Beastie Boys doing an album with Bob Marley and Sublime. A lot of their songs did sound similar to each other but reggae can be that way at times. This didn’t matter to their crowd; they flowed and hopped to every song.
I have to admit I was late to the party on these guys. Their first album came out in 2008 and the song, “Lay Me Down” was huge in 2010 but I never knew who sang it. It is strange that I never found these guys before; I mean I knew of the name but that’s it. I love bands like Pepper and Super Villians that infuse this modern reggae with other genres. These guys totally fit that bill and I’m glad I finally got to hear them and give them a chance. The last handful of songs is where they picked up and I really started digging them. They are a duo vocalist band kind of like 311. They take turns with the reggae singing and the rapping and one of them handles the lead guitar. All the band members really worked off each other and it showed. One of the best moments was when they recited a line from a song that included the names of all three members of the Beastie Boys. When they got to MCA they wanted the whole crowd to shout his name in honor of the fallen rapper. It was a very cool moment and I was right there with everybody screaming his name. To end the set they brought out Matisyahu and did the song “Dance All Night” off their newest album, Cabin By The Sea. It was a nice prelude to the set by Matisyahu that was yet to come. If you enjoy smooth reggae rhythms with some hip hop and punk infused within then I recommend looking into The Dirty Heads, they won’t disappoint.
At about 9:45 Matisyahu and his three piece band took the stage. His three piece band was really disguised as a five piece because the guitarist and bassist both did double duty and played keyboards too.
I am still trying to get used to Matisyahu without his beard. He looks so different. Late last year he shaved it off and posted a twitter pic of himself stating he was reclaiming himself. Beard or not, his music hasn’t changed and the crowd was ready for him.
I noticed that he seemed more laid back and not as energetic as he has been in past concerts but he put that to rest about halfway through and appeared to open up more and was all over the stage. The ultimate proof of his stage energy was when he stage dove off a monitor and swam a top of the crowd. He even got some to hold him straight up and he stood over the massive crowd for a good thirty seconds.
The crowd was a little more subdued during Matisyahu’s set. It appeared that they drained a lot of their energy during The Dirty Heads. Not that they weren’t into it, just not as wild. The set was a good mixture of old and new material but the crowd of course got more into the older stuff as per usual. It was a very good show but I think I like my younger bearded Matisyahu better.