The tallest man in the world is over 8ft. tall. Kristian Matsson of Dalarna, Sweden is not that man. Even though he performs under The Tallest Man On Earth moniker, the folk-singer stands around 5 1/2 ft. tall. That being said, it doesn’t really matter what he calls himself, because his voice and songwriting skills are some of the best on Earth.
Kristian was supposed to be headlining the sold-out show at The Bluebird on Wednesday night (as he did in Boulder the night before), but Denver’s own Nathaniel Rateliff took the top billing to celebrate the release of his excellent new album, In Memory Of Loss. As much as I enjoy and support Nathaniel’s work, I was a little disappointed. First off, I have seen Nathaniel & The Wheel many times. Second, I was really looking forward to a full set by The Tallest Man on Earth. And third, the headlining set was ruined by excessive chatter within the audience. I ended up leaving after a few songs because it was just not worth it.
The night was not a wash though. Kristian’s set lasted about an hour and it was well worth the journey over to The Bluebird. The quirky Swede took the stage around 9:00pm and opened the set with “The Wild Hunt”, “Thousand Ways” and then one of my favorite songs, “I Won’t Be Found”. This is the song that introduced me to his Dylan-esque voice and unique take on folk music. It’s also the song that opens one of my favorite albums of 2008, Shallow Grave.
Kristian does not sound like he’s from Sweden. He sounds more like he’s from the South and I was a little afraid I would be bored with his set. It had been a long day and I was pretty exhausted by the time I got to the venue. But I made my way to the front of the stage with the hope that he would invigorate me if I was up close. I did have my doubts though. Sometimes a single guy on stage with a guitar is just not what the doctor ordered after a long day. But The Tallest Man on Earth was not your typical, sit on a bench and strum the guitar type of folk singer. In fact, the guy could not stand still. He would be at the mic, then would come to the front of the stage and sway over the audience before sitting down on a chair…and then he’d stand up again as soon as his butt hit the seat. The man was all over the place, but as random and sharp as his movements were, they did not take away from the music or the stories he was telling.
“I’m glad you’re all happy, now I’m going to sing a song about killing people”
That is what I like most about The Tallest Man On Earth…his dark humor. Most of his material is dark, but you have to listen carefully to figure that out. The hidden layers and meanings in his songs unravel with each listen. And even though his set was only an hour and he only got through 13 songs…it felt like we all got our money’s worth.
Most of the material came from his two albums, Shallow Grave and this year’s The Wild Hunt, but he did perform his cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” per audience request. He made it very clear that he had ‘a lot of fun’ fulfilling that request. He closed the set with a song I was not familiar with, but I have since learned is a bonus track on The Wild Hunt. The song is titled “Like A Wheel” and it was a perfect close to a near perfect set.
The Tallest Man On Earth – Like A Wheel (via Fuel/Friends)
The Wild Hunt
I Won’t Be Found
Love Is All
Graceland (Paul Simon cover)
Where Do My Bluebird Fly
You’re Going Back
The Drying Of The Lawns
King Of Spain
Like A Wheel