The Tallest Man on Earth
Kristian Matsson sells out the Paramount Theatre
By Abby Johnston, 3:30PM, Wed. Aug. 29, 2012
Jet-lagged and casual in skinny jeans and a tank top soon soaked through with sweat, the Tallest Man on Earth only stood five-foot-seven. The Swede behind the moniker, Kristian Matsson, made no attempt to hide his fatigue. He shuffled onstage, mumbled apologies to the sold-out Paramount Theatre, and found his second wind with the first strum of his guitar.
Matsson performs solo – no backing band and no frills. Well, with few frills. For a handful of songs his acoustic musings were augmented with pedal effects that erred on the side of cheesy. This could be a by-product of his latest album There’s No Leaving Now, which although devastatingly raw has a lot more shellac on its tracks.
The singer was at his best when stripped down the furthest he could muster. Tiptoeing and stumbling across the stage – falling over his guitar and periodically throwing himself into the lonely chair positioned in the middle of the stage – he seemed floored by his own deceptively delicate force.
“King of Spain” was an anticipated crowd favorite, and with the dropped tuning and rapid-fire train rhythm strums, Matsson delivered. His voice has strengthened over three LPs, making older songs like “The Gardner” from his 2008 full-length bow Shallow Grave all the more haunting.
He took to the piano, his self proclaimed weakness, for two songs, new cut “There’s No Leaving Now” and soulful encore closer “Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird.” Although his fingers may not be as deft on ivory as they are with thin metal strings, Matsson played with conviction and sincerity, a chilling combination when coupled with his delightfully off-kilter tenor. Sound bounced from the painted dome ceiling of the Paramount, giving warm acoustics and plenty of room to chew on his yelping, suspended notes.
With a 90-minute set and a two-song encore, Matsson battled through his exhaustion all night. Although he apologized profusely to the “polite” crowd, the standing ovation at both his initial set end and after the encore was telling. He left out a lot of favorites from his first two albums, particularly sophomore disc The Wild Hunt (2010), but he was an honest and humble guide through his repertoire.
Kristian Matsson's command hooks audiences enough to keep a brimming house completely silent – free of amorous cat-calls – and filled with a tangible reverence even if he wasn't packing what he called his “normal” amount of charisma.