There aren’t very many people we enjoy watching toot their own horn. In the music world, the right to blatantly do so is reserved for the likes of John Lennon and Bob Dylan. For the amusement factor, the majority will let the self-aggrandizement of artists like Brett Michaels, Nelly, and William Shatner pass, perhaps even look forward to it. In the case of obviously talented, indie-folk singer/songwriter Tallest Man on Earth, it just seemed awkward.
Have you ever known that person who’s incredibly talented at something very specific yet somewhat inept in others? Judging by the ill-fitting, occasionally strange, and sometimes pretty funny commentary vibrant throughout the one-man show, Tallest Man on Earth is, in the case of music, that talented guy.
Playing on the curtails of a weather disaster and competing with the too loud, thumping bass coming from the surprisingly far performance of a DJ, sole member/performer Kristian Matsson roared over all nearby sounds with nothing more than his voice and, at first, his electric guitar. The instrument’s warm-bodied, light distortion possessed melodic fuzz that carried the audience in a trance, occasionally pausing so Matsson could switch to acoustic guitar, keyboard, or a few stabs at humor.
The latter, to say the least, was hit or miss, as it often is with musicians. Perhaps the two respective forms of genius are far separated, overlapping only in certain cases – for Zak Galifianakis, to play a piano melody behind a few funny jokes; for Matsson, to fill the silence between songs so good that they can move you. The difference is that comments like, “You should get to know me first – I can be a real douchebag,” move you in a different way than his emotionally driven songs.
Douchebag or not, Tallest Man on Earth’s talent surely overrides any shortcomings. For starters, Matsson is a better singer than most. His voice is pure, rugged, and beautiful in the way of Dylan, whom the young singer’s style is often compared to. Second, he is a great performer – his one-man show packed more of a punch than many full bands can give. At a closer to average height – 5’7”-ish – the musician earns his stage name, commanding the audience’s attention by becoming the tallest man in the room. Maybe he does have a sense of humor after all. Judging by the intelligence of his lyrics, however, it seems more likely that Matsson has a firm grasp on irony.
He’s also honest. Unless literary or poetic enough to mask that the lyrics are about something involving him/herself, singers’ messages are usually critiqued by their ability to move the listener. The way most musicians revered for their lyrical prowess accomplish this is by keeping their lyrics both truthful and easily relatable. Matsson’s music, both live and on record, never fails to do so. Further attesting to his honesty, were his efforts at the rain-soaked keyboard. “I don’t really know how to play it,” he attested before striking a note. This seemed true, but, as with many skilled songwriters, didn’t affect the quality of the music he composed. Still, the words came off as an underhanded way of bragging about his obvious genius. Listening closely, however, unveiled a hint of timidity in Matsson’s voice. Perhaps he’s slightly uncomfortable by the promise his talent shows.
Beyond speculation was the crowd’s approval of his performance and talent. Throughout the set, it looked as if each member of the audience found their own high point amidst the songs. A memorable moment beyond the music occurred when an audience member handed Matsson a lay. It was the colors of the rainbow. After putting it on, Matsson remarked, “It goes really fucking well with my positive songs.” Many in the audience laughed.