|Tallest Man on Earth|
REVIEW: Tallest Man on Earth at The Paramount
On Tuesday night Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson, known as the Tallest Man on Earth, came through Austin with a show at the Paramount Theater. Review by Caitlin Wittlif.
You don’t need much if you’re the Tallest Man on Earth. A simple portable piano with a bench, a beat up, red-cushioned chair, amp, mic stand, plus a guy who will bring you guitars tuned to the right unusual settings between each song. Kristian Matsson is, ironically, a pocket-sized Swede with a handsome, chiseled face and a Dylanesque chiseled voice to match, but his stage presence immediately fills a room. The second he strode out, directly to the front of the stage to take a half-bow, the Paramount Theatre exploded in applause and hollers. Matsson took it in for a moment, his toes dangling over the edge of the stage, and then walked to the side to retrieve his guitar. He strapped it on, and leapt right into his opener, a song from his latest release, There’s No Leaving Now.
It takes significant energy and charisma to perform a 16-song set by your self. Most bands have other members to fall back on and interact with, but not Matsson. He wanders around the stage, swaying, singing, jerking and acting out his words, and then taking a seat to indulge in an especially tangled guitar riff. He is an expert guitarist, picking and rolling and making his electrics and acoustics sing alike. His lyrics are moving, too, often involving the mountains, creatures and fields of Sweden or some other fairytale place, or else some form of intense and beautiful love. “Love is All” elicited a gasped “Oh my God!” from an audience member, although this was a rare sound — even though the audience was chatty in between tunes, Matsson’s songs were taken in in quiet contemplation or silenced awe.
The singer endeared himself to his fans with his banter. He confided that he’d been jet-lagged earlier, but he’d just woken up from a wonderful nap on his tour bus, “and to wake up to this! ... OK, shut up, Kristian,” he mumbled to himself. After he finished “Wind and Walls,” he kicked his chair over, but then quickly went to pick it up, eliciting gleeful giggles from the girls sitting around me.
Although “King of Spain” was the beloved hit everyone was waiting for, “The Gardener” came across with more energy and enthusiasm from Matsson. He seemed most at ease during that song, smiling broadly at his large turnout - an empty seat could nary be seen.
Matsson played a variety of sweet folk tunes and darker, heavier stuff from throughout his career. Even though “King of Spain” was treated pre-encore, the crowd went crazy when Matsson closed out his set with “Revelation Blues” from the new record. There was a standing ovation with no break in fervor, as fans yelled, cheered, whistled, and clapped as hard as possible, and somehow even raised their noise level a notch when Matsson re-entered the stage for his final two songs.
Guitar may be Matsson’s weapon of choice, but two of the prettiest songs of the night were both played on his piano. “Like the Wheel” was a reflection and a plea for strength and healing, and “The Dreamer” was Matsson’s bedtime story and goodnight kiss, as he begged, “Sometimes the blues is just a passing bird/Why can’t that always be?” With any luck, the Tallest Man on Earth will help us pass the blues again and again.
To Just Grow Away
Love Is All
I Won’t Be Found
There’s No Leaving Now
It Will Follow the Rain
Leading Me Now
Wind and Walls
Like the Wheel
Where Do My Bluebirds Fly
King of Spain