Live Review: The Tallest Man on Earth, Edinburgh HMV Picture House (27/10/12)

A sold-out crowd braved Edinburgh’s horrific weather in order to greet The Tallest Man on Earth at the HMV Picture House. It was Kristian Mattson’s debut performance in Edinburgh and he certainly did not disappoint. It is no exaggeration to say that Mattson delivered a mind-blowing performance that fulfilled and exceeded every expectation.

The Swedish-born folk singer was touring in the UK to promote his newest album ‘There’s No Leaving Now’, however he also played several songs from his previous two albums. The audience was immediately treated to Mattson’s on-stage theatrical presence as he hid in the darkness, creeping onto stage without a sound. Mattson seemed genuinely overwhelmed that the audience were there to watch him perform, repeating “thank you for coming” every time that he spoke between songs. The Swedish singer’s lack of self-credit seems humble considering that he has a worldwide following and has also toured with the likes of Bon Iver.

‘To Just Grow Away’ was the opener – a mellow, slow-paced track from ‘There’s No Leaving Now’ that assured the audience that they were not going to leave disappointed. This was followed by songs from all three of The Tallest Man on Earth’s albums, including his most well known, ‘King of Spain’, a song that the crowd was waiting for and which left Mattson practically falling to the floor. The singer’s guitar strumming was more frantic than ever in similarly upbeat numbers from ‘There’s No Leaving Now’, such as ‘Wind and Walls’ and ‘Revelation Blues’. His signature croaky voice echoed around the Picture House, leaving the audience revelling in its power. What Mattson delivered was not just song after song, to him “it’s all about the show” and he gave an effortless performance that encapsulated his craving for playing music. Mattson himself told the crowd “I don’t like to do interviews and shit, I just like to play”, and his comments were unquestionably sincere.

Mattson performed with agility, elegantly combining intricate finger picking with upbeat, fast strumming on his guitar. Matsson is not just a charismatic performer; he is an entertaining genius. His cheerful onstage presence was challenged only when he commanded the members of the balcony audience to stop talking during songs, and when mid-song, he moved into a trance-like state, fixing his gaze on a single audience member in a disturbing manner.

The set list merged into one long performance, however this only evoked a sense of familiarity that gave rise to a whole set of emotions felt through Mattson’s lyrics. The audience were so entranced by Mattson’s magic that an hour and a half of listening passed almost instantly, and the crowd wanted more. The sheer intimacy of Mattson’s performance showcased a voice that surpassed that of the studio recording, and what’s more, Mattson succeeded in the almost impossible task of balancing the intimacy that he created alongside a powerful voice. It is unbelievable to think that Mattson could transfix his audience with so much ease, he didn’t need a large backing band to aid him in his music playing, only a guitar. For this, one can only give Mattson credit.

One of the highlights of a wonderful night was the final track of the encore, ‘The Dreamer’ which Mattson played on the piano, as opposed to the original guitar based version. The song, from a 2010 EP is played rarely by Mattson at live shows, and finished off the evening with every member of the audience in awe of his incredible talent. It may be clichéd, but words cannot describe the true beauty of The Tallest Man on Earth’s music. This was simply spectacular.

Grace March

…Grace has been listening to The Staves – The Motherlode…


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