Solid show no tall order for this Swede

The Tallest Man on Earth
November 21 at Store Vega

Based on his far-travelling vocals and stage name, one might guess that artist Kristian Matsson would be larger in stature. Ironically, however, the Swedish-born musician is decidedly short, as was made evident at his Store Vega concert on Thursday night. Fortunately, however, the Tallest Man on Earth's lack of height didn’t keep him from offering his audience a delightful show.

Matsson wasted no time pulling out his strongest material, starting off the night with ‘King of Spain’, from 2010’s The Wild Hunt. This was both a personal favourite and a clear crowd pleaser, and was a classic choice to kick off the concert. Despite a few initial hiccups, Matsson’s nasally voice was on track.

Matsson’s vocal style and guitar melodies often seem to have originated more from the southern United States than central Sweden. This style has led to comparisons to Bob Dylan, and it is precisely this raw, rustic style that creates a delightfully cosy, intimate setting when performed live. Matsson maintained this sense of closeness perfectly with the packed audience throughout the evening, while still not saying much between songs and letting his lyrics do the taking instead.

He alternated between some of his older classics, a highlight of which was ‘I Won’t Be Found’, from 2008’s Shallow Grave, and newer material. Songs from his latest record, There’s No Leaving Now (2012), were also well represented, including the melodiously chipper ‘1904’. My personal favourite of the evening, however, was the hauntingly melancholic ‘Bright Lanterns’, during which the singer’s voice softened considerably and floated out across the audience, the crowd seeming to hang on his every note.

While Matsson’s lyrics are predominantly in English, the singer-songwriter initially alternated between Swedish and English when addressing the crowd. When his Swedish accent proved too much for the predominantly Danish audience, Matsson tossed a joking “I’ll just do this in English” out into the crowd. This, however, was met with vocal disapproval from numerous audience members, either a legion of loyal Swedes or overly proud Danes. Ultimately he seemed to settle on Swedish, much to the chagrin of this reviewer. Luckily, the between-song speeches were kept short and sweet, sticking instead to the guttural vocals and guitar riffs the audience was after.

The Tallest Man on Earth maintained a satisfactory consistency throughout the evening, and any minor setbacks along the way were easily overshadowed by the concert’s strengths, and were quickly forgiven by the audience. This was the Swede’s second appearance at Store Vega after playing a show at the venue in November 2012, and Matsson easily proved that concert-goers would likely be happy to welcome him back again anytime he'd like – and that height is clearly no indicator of the ability to maintain a sizable stage presence. 

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