I travelled to Camden’s Electric Ballroom on Wednesday the 24th of November to watch Kristian Matsson, a.k.a ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ perform. The venue was sold out and the excitement of the crowd was palpable. 2010 has been a massive year for the man from Leksand, Sweden. He signed to Dead Oceans in January, released an LP in April, ‘The Wild Hunt’, his second full length album and in September a five song EP ‘Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird’. He has also toured extensively; over North America in the summer before returning to Europe for the release of the EP.
He came on to an enthusiastic welcome, opening with ‘A Field of Birds’, a song which he wrote for the Yellow Bird Project, a Montreal based non-profit initiative that collaborates with artists to raise money and awareness for charities. He then proceeded to play songs from both his new album and his 2008 LP ‘Shallow Grave’.
His voice is wonderfully gruff, he growls out his set. The lines are sung with a great deal of emphasis upon the last word, something that must be heard to be believed. He stalks around the stage with his head down almost comically. Elmer Fudd springs to mind with a guitar instead of a shotgun and it is with this guitar that he strums and plucks his melodies with thunderous power.
‘King of Spain’ is a crowd pleaser that sparks excitement from the capacity crowd and leads to them singing with him trying to match his soulful voice. It has a strong melody and rhythm; potentially what led it to be his only single to date. It is after this that he addresses the crowd and highlights a comparison that has been made throughout his short career; his likeness to Bob Dylan. To Matsson, almost all male singer-songwriters undergo this association and the point he makes is that he feels he has taken more from female singers such as Annie Lennox, Feist and Patsy Cline. Though the feminine influence in his music is apparent, his resemblance to Dylan remains inescapable.
From this he moves on to perform the upbeat ‘Wild Hunt’, my favourite of the evening. I feel it highlights the ability of ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ to deliver songs with strained intensity before switching to ones of more playful optimism. He then switches from playing guitar to his “banjo” for a couple of stunning ballads including ‘Like the Wheel’. His “banjo” is much larger than average as it is, in fact, a piano.
Before the last song, ‘Thrown Right At Me’ a member of the crowd asks “how tall are you?” to which he retorts “You can do better than that”. It is clear from the size of him that he is not the tallest man on earth. Though he may be slightly below average, the same cannot be said of his music. The support act ‘Idiot Wind’ joined him for this song, presenting a sublime ending to the show, the mixture of their voices evoked Kim Carnes and dare I say it, Bob Dylan. He did of course provide an encore, ‘Dreamer’ and the contemplative ‘Kids On The Run’.
So there you have it, as with all reviews I have ever read of ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ I have mentioned how he sounds like Bob Dylan and is in fact not the tallest man on Earth. In all seriousness Matsson is a charming troubadour and this lengthy set is proof of his precocious talent and genuine heart.