Two years ago, I saw Kristian Matsson (a.k.a. The Tallest Man On Earth) for the first time in Portland’s swanky Doug Fir Lounge. He was supporting his sophomore album, The Wild Hunt, and though I was only familiar with a selection of tracks on the album, the Swedish singer-songwriter blew me away. On Tuesday night, the young musician played at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre; this time, supporting his new LP, There’s No Leaving Now. In fact, the night marked the release of the album.
When the curtain rose and Matsson took the stage, he was filled with gratitude. “This is a really magical day for me,” he told the audience. “I am so happy I get to share it with you.” One of the many great things about the folk singer is his appreciation for his fans. He said “thank you,” after each of the 16 songs in his set and interacted with the crowd in between playing. Another great thing about The Tallest Man On Earth is his size. Matsson measures up to 5’ 7” and probably weighs around 130 pounds. It’s hard not to smirk the first time you see him walk on the stage—this petite man, timid in appearance—but as soon as he sings, you are taken aback. It’s hard to believe his monstrous voice came from those tiny lungs.
Though his albums contain more than just guitar, Matsson performs alone. He is accompanied by a wooden chair, (at least) five guitars carefully aligned on the side of the stage, and a piano. He does not loop his music. He creates the songs’ live renditions with whatever parts he can play himself.
The performer began his set with “To Just Grow Away,” the entrancing opening track off of Leaving. From there, he played selections from both Leaving and The Wild Hunt, as well as his 2010 EP, Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird. “I’m going to play some new songs tonight,” he told the audience, as he pulled up his chair. “They’re really hard to play, so I will need to sit down.”
Halfway through his hour-and-a-half long set, Matsson transitioned from the strings to his piano. “I’m going to play this weird thing now,” he told the crowd as he approached the keys and began to play the beautiful title track off There’s No Leaving Now, dedicating the tune to his supporting act, Strand of Oaks.
When it was time for Matsson to say good night, his fans wouldn’t have it. He received a standing ovation, with the crowd chanting and cheering for an encore. He obliged, coming back and playing two more tunes, starting with fan favorite, “The Dreamer,” and ending with “Thrown Right At Me,” with a special appearance by his gorgeous wife and fellow Swedish singer-songwriter
Top Photo Credit: From the artist's Facebook page. Not credited (I wish we knew who took it.)