Tallest Man on Earth is a natural star
At the Vogue Theatre on Monday, September 10
Kristian Matsson—or, as he is better known, the Tallest Man on Earth—is actually quite small. When the Swedish singer-songwriter walked out onto the barren stage at the Vogue Theatre last night, he was dressed in tight black jeans, boots, and a muscle shirt, which was at odds with his pixielike appearance. He’s cute-handsome, with wiry arms and minimal facial hair. The crowd (youthful, seated, and packed into the sold-out theatre) hollered as Matsson plugged in his guitar and strummed his way through the song “To Just Grow Away”.
Since 2006, Matsson has released three full-length records to praise from critics and fans who have fallen head-first for his Bob Dylan–inspired brand of indie folk. His lyrics bring up images of wind, walls, rain, and love, and the classically trained musician’s folksy arrangements recalibrate the quiet-loud-quiet-loud mentality of the Pixies. On his albums, he may do his best Dylan impression, but live he is more of a male Ani DiFranco, experimenting with open tunings, frantically fingerpicking, and always bouncing, bending, and twitching along with the rhythms of songs such as “1904” and “Criminals”.
The audience was positively giddy for Matsson. The two girls behind me whispered and giggled between every song about how “cute” and “amazing” the singer was. They clearly had a crush on the married folksinger. Unlike, say, Elliott Smith or Cat Power, whose appeal comes from their innate shyness and terrified urgency in the spotlight, Matsson is a natural showman. He came across as slightly cocky when he bantered with the crowd about losing his voice, or troubles with his tour bus.
He knows why he is on-stage, and this is not a bad thing: it’s clear that he wants to be in the spotlight.
“There’s No Leaving Now” sent Matsson over to the piano, while “Wind and Walls” showcased his vocal dexterity. Sometimes he sounded exactly like Dylan, with the same vocal inflections and growls, while elsewhere he channeled Elton John or the clean whisper of Nick Drake. He’s a crowd-pleaser.
Matsson closed with “King of Spain” and “Revelation Blues”, re-emerging after only a few minutes of clapping and cheering for an encore. The tiny folksinger bowed, picked up his guitar, and played “The Wild Hunt” while the young crowd sang along. He then broke into “Graceland” by Paul Simon, and finished back on the piano with “The Dreamer”.
Every girl in the crowd walked home crushing hard on the tiny Swedish showman.