The first time I saw The Tallest Man On Earth live, I, like most everyone there, had no idea who he was. He was opening for Bon Iver at Headliners in Louisville, KY and the rowdy crowd showed little interest when he walked on stage. Kristian Matsson, after shaking several people’s hands, shushed the crowd and said “Excuse me, these people up here at the front want to hear me play a song, and they can’t do that unless everyone is quiet.” And, rather reluctantly, the noisy bar became church-quiet. I for one was taken by his set, and felt it over-shadowed Bon Iver’s performance.
Another LP and EP later, TTMOE is headlining his own European tour, as well appearing at some of the top summer festivals on the Continent. And judging by the full room at Vicar St. in Dublin, he’s made a few fans along the way. During “Pistol Dreans” the crowd was singing “Throw Me in the Fire Now, Come on!” louder than Matsson, and a couple of times he just let the crowd sing it.
Matsson more than once griped about playing songs from The Wild Hunt, and didn’t even play the title track. “That album was me moaning about some $#*! that happened.” he quipped. “I’ve been moaning all over Europe now.” He seemed to be more optimistic about his latest EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, as he played every song on the album.
“This is great. I’m playing my favorite song with my favorite guitar.” he said as he started strumming “Thrown Right at Me.” The song turned out to be a duet with Amanda Bergman of Idiot Wind. Ostensibly, judging by the googly eyes they were making at each other, the two are an item.
In a 1964 Newport Folk Festival-esque moment, Mattson invited the bassist and drummer from opening act Francis to play 3 songs with him (see set list). Unlike Newport, the crowd responded very postively. In my opinion “Dreamer” particularly sounded more developed with a rhythm section and I think we’ll hear Matsson move more in this direction in the future.
In a largely automized, production-centric music industry, TTMOE is one of those refreshing musical artists that sounds as good if not better live. I was a little sad he didn’t play “A Thousand Ways” or his cover of “Graceland”, but was excited to hear the news he will be starting work on his new album soon.
The set list:
- I Won’t Be Found
- The Gardener
- Pistol Dreams
- Troubles Will Be Gone
- Where Do My Bluebird Fly?
- You’re Going Back
- Love Is All
- Tangled in This Trampled Wheat
- Dreamer [band]
- King of Spain [band]
- There’s No Leaving Now (?) [band]
- A Lion’s Heart
- Thrown Right at Me [feat. Amanda Bergman]
- Drying of the Lawns [encore]
- Like the Wheel [encore]