There is a reason that critics continually compare Kristian Matsson (aka The Tallest Man on Earth) to Bob Dylan. It’s always a comparison one should take with a grain of salt, but, for Matsson, no comparison could be truer. Lyrically and musically, Matsson weaves the same magical threads of folk and poignant imagery together to create something truly beautiful. Add to this his handsome charisma and rugged good looks, and you’ve got an unforgettable concert experience.
Taking my seat in the sold-out Concert Hall, I notice that the stage was the emptiest I had ever seen it. It houses only a single wooden chair, a microphone stand, a pedal board, an acoustic guitar and a grand piano. These are the only tools Matsson needs to work his magic. His spritely opener, King of Spain, grabs the audience instantly. He has a habit of contorting his body along with the music and lolloping about on stage. You can tell from the applause that the audience are already enamoured by his raw vocals and boyish charm — shouts of “I fucking love you!” and “Kristian Beiber!” are heard, amongst others. Matsson responds to the hecklers with grace, dedicating songs to them as they giggle with his every move. The heart-wrenching Love Is All brings a hushed silence to the crowd, Matsson expertly plucking away at his guitar. Often, one wonders how he manages such intricate sounds with only ten fingers. Moving on to material from his latest album “There’s No Leaving Now,” he breezes through To Just Grow Away and 1904, shifting to the majestic-looking piano for There’s No Leaving Now. Thanking the audience profusely after each song, this is an artist who gains genuine pleasure from performing for a crowd. Going back to his older songs, I Won’t Be Found, The Gardener, Burden of Tomorrow, and Like the Wheel all feel comfortingly familiar. Performing all his songs (bar one) using just his voice and guitar brings with it the risk of sounding too repetitive, but Matsson manages to pull it off. His songs are varied enough that it’s hard to grow weary of his style, and his captivating stage presence is enchanting, to say the least. There is a point in the night when someone wolf whistles at him, and he responds by whistling back. Suddenly, the entire hall is filled with whistles and other various bird calls, and the room is transformed into a menagerie. It’s the kind of bizarre, dreamlike moment that could only happen at a Tallest Man on Earth concert. Joined on stage by his wife and fellow musician, Amanda Bergman, the two sing a cover of Paul Simon’s Graceland as an encore, their voices harmonising wonderfully. It is truly a testament to his talent when Matsson, a raspy folk singer from Sweden, can get a standing ovation at the Opera House worthy of a long-lauded rock star. While he may not literally be the tallest man on earth, he definitely stands tall in the musical world.
There’s No Leaving Now is available via Dead Oceans
– Live Music Review by Sarah Fernandes