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Live Review + Photos: The Tallest Man On Earth at Bush Hall, London, 03/15/2010

There are two common misconceptions that people have before going to see The Tallest Man On Earth; firstly that he is tall and secondly that he is just a man who stands in front of a microphone plucking a guitar and singing. Both of these are refuted the instant Kristian Matsson takes to the stage. Despite being vertically challenged (if that is truly the politically correct terminology) Matsson instantly commanded the crowd to be silent with a simple finger to the lips before launching into the opening title track of his new record The Wild Hunt.

Playing from both his now-renowned debut Shallow Grave and his soon-to-be-released follow up, he enthralled the crowd from beginning to end. His voice was even more powerful than on record, and even when crowd members sang along to favourites such as “The Gardener” he drowned them out. Throughout the show he stamped and tramped his way around the stage in any instant he could get away from the microphone, getting lost in his performance but always returning to center stage just in time to deliver the next vocal. Often he came right to the edge of the stage to look out over the crowd, evidently enjoying this privileged viewpoint, surveying individual audience members for extended moments. Between songs he spent a long time retuning his guitar, but the crowd were patient and chatted amongst themselves as Matsson looked on with a keen glint in his eye, hinting of an intellect teetering on the brink between ingenious and insane.

His vocal delivery never seemed less than genuine, his expressive nature came through loud and clear in his performance. He ranged from seemingly genuinely enraged during “Honey Won’t You Let Me In?” to strained in “You’re Going Back” and quietly contemplative in “Troubles Will Be Gone.” For a finale he invited a female friend of his onstage for a duet, both of them stumbled around the stage merrily before teetering back in towards the microphone to produce perfectly harmonised vocals that created a beautiful spectacle to end the main set.

For the encore he performed what he says is his newest song; a slow and beautiful ballad that was the ideal wind-down for an energetic evening. Before leaving the stage he blew kisses to the crowd and seemed genuinely honoured and humbled by the hero worship he received. The night was an out and out triumph for Matsson whose star is still rising. The next time he’s in town it’s guaranteed to be even more special; he’s bringing his banjo!

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