Marta-Emilia Bona’s Christmas came early as The Tallest Man on Earth came to Edinburgh.
Kristian Matsson and I have been through a lot together.
Everyone holds dear an artist that provides an invaluable source of comfort on those days where all you want to do is curl up next to your radiator and feel pathetically sorry for yourself – ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ is mine. My four-year love affair with the Swedish born folk singer reached its climax on Saturday night, during an enchanting performance at the HMV Picture House, Edinburgh.
Needless to say, I was experiencing levels of anticipation similar to a child on Christmas Eve and the show not only met, but exceeded any expectations I could have had.
Touring the UK to promote his new album, ‘There’s No Leaving Now’, Matsson appeared alone on stage with his guitar, but rest assured, his presence filled the room. The sheer simplicity and intimacy of the performance allowed you to focus on a vocal quality that just can’t be captured on recording. Anyone who’s familiar with ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ will recognize his distinct sound, which has often seen him compared to Bob Dylan. Now, brace yourself, as I’m aware I’m about to commit musical heresy… but I’ll openly state that I think Matsson is better, both technically and lyrically. There’s just something about his performances that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, as he commands an impossible balance between tender intimacy and overwhelming power.
What was evident throughout the performance was Matsson’s unbelievable technical ability. His manic darting about the fret board communicated a sense of urgency, which far from seeming effortless, clearly indicated that he was putting everything into this live performance. The audience responded accordingly, and there was a sense throughout the crowd that we were all experiencing something truly magnificent on a cold, dark Edinburgh evening. Indeed, the consensus of gratitude, which was communicated by one audience member shouting “THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING!” was reciprocated by Matsson himself, who reiterated throughout the evening how appreciative he was that the sell-out crowd had turned out for his debut performance in Edinburgh. With a stage presence as unique as his music, Matsson managed to communicate both charming modesty and a dry wit, which you can’t help but be endeared by.
For me, stand out tracks of the evening had to be ‘Burden of Tomorrow’ and ‘Love is All’ as well as stunning performances of new album tracks like ‘1904’ and ‘Revelation Blues’. However, the undoubted highlight of the night was the final track of the encore – ‘The Dreamer’. A song from the 2010 EP ‘Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird’ – which rarely gets played at live shows – ended the evening with such an astounding resonance that I can confidently say my love for ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ has not only been confirmed, but greatly heightened.
The Substantive is a platform for new, independent writing on popular culture. You can buy the e-book and/or t-shirt. Details below with links to pictures and reviews.
The Substantive ‘The Boss’ t-shirt, with an original print by the artist Lilly Allen, is 100% ultracotton and made by an ethical and environmental partner. Pictures, more details and a link to order here.
New, independent writing, ‘Glory Nights from Wankdorf to Wembley’ documents the journey that captures the culture of travelling to Europe watching football while examining a sport where money is valued alongside glory. It is available to preview for free and download in full for less than a pint of beer at the Olympic Park from Amazon and Smashwords. More details, including photos and links to reviews, here.