On an otherwise misty and mundane Monday evening in October, a crowd had already formed outside the entrance of the Roundhouse at 7 o’clock. By the end of his set, support artist, Phil Cook, made the the Roundhouse (an otherwise vast and echoey space) feel like an intimate venue. He had the crowd singing along to songs they’d most likely never heard before.
Then, after a brief interlude, the Tallest Man on Earth, otherwise known as Kristian Matsson, quite literally leapt onto the stage. After intense renditions of ‘Moonshiner’ and new album-track ‘Fields Of Our Home’, Matsson exclaimed “This is the biggest indoor venue I’ve ever played”. It was true. The Roundhouse, with an audience of 5,000, was absolutely packed.
Though he introduced the next few tracks with apologies for yet another ‘sad’ song, his exuberant performance transformed them into songs of elation. He released an abundance of energy, which the crowd absorbed eagerly, as their movements evolved from head swaying, to arm-swinging and finally to full-on dancing. His positive energy only seemed to grow, and grow, throughout the set. It was clear that his love for the music he made, and the art of performance, filled him with vigour.
Matsson, dressed from head to toe in white, has an extrovert demeanour on stage. As he moved, I got the impression that I’d paid to see a music gig and got a complimentary contemporary dance performance. It was definitely the most dynamic folk gig I’ve ever seen.
Matsson’s incredible vocal talent was matched by a full band of a guitarist, two keyboardists and a violinist. His guitar tech, too, worked equally as hard, as Matsson changed guitars after every song he performed. To demonstrate his versatility, the band left Matsson alone on stage. His solo performance of ‘Criminals’ confirmed his talent as a vocalist and his captivating stage presence. His voice was at once more full and powerful than could be captured on record. Joking that he had ‘run out of guitars’, Matsson then performed ‘Little Nowhere Towns’ on the piano, which revealed a comfortable mastery of the keys on this mellow and moving piano track.
After playing some crowd favourites from his older albums Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt, such as ‘King of Spain’ Matsson finished with ‘Dark Bird is Home’, the title track which also concludes his newest album. It was clear that the crowd loved his performance, as he returned for an encore to complete a 21-track strong setlist. Watching Tallest Man on Earth live has been a wish I’d had for five years. Now it’s to see them again.
By Bethan Donaghey, photo courtesy of Cameron Wittig