11 July 2012
Kristian Matsson is not, in fact, The actual Tallest Man On Earth. According to the Guinness World Records that is Sultan Kosen, a 29 year old Turkish farmer. It is possible that 1200+ people would pay £20.00 a ticket to see Kosen on a Tuesday night at the Hackney Empire, but not because he was playing a one off gig in support of his third album.
Wikipedia says that: He [Matsson] performs under the stage name The Tallest Man on Earth, despite not being unusually tall. He looks tall, maybe not unusually so but tall never the less. Maybe it is just an optical illusion with the trick the skinniest of skinny jeans. With his feet being shoulder width apart and his knees together, he hunches down to the centre stage microphone and, with the occasional sideways flick of a leg he cuts a Bambi like figure. His presence is compelling: not because he looks like he could fall over at any minute and then require the services of his guitar tech to untangle him and not to see if he would ever break the boundaries of the spotlight that shone down on him, but because he is the type of person who commands attention.
Each song that Matsson plays is an individual performance. He starts by choosing between one of two acoustics, a semi or electric guitar then plugs it in, then twiddles with his amp, taps a couple of pedals then, after only a couple of bars of intricate finger picking, the crowd start clapping cheering and whistling, he nods his head in appreciation and sings. Whether it’s ‘1904’ from this year’s ‘There’s No Leaving Now’ or ‘The King Of Spain’ from ‘The Wild Hunt’ or ‘I Won’t Be Found’ from ‘Shallow Grave’ the routine is the same.
The only variations are a couple of visits to the grand piano that his wife, Amanda Bergman (aka Idiot Wind), had sat at for a half hour support set of yet to be released material and it was one of these, the title track of his latest release that was one of the evenings stand out moments.
After less than an hour he announced that he had time for two more songs which he duly played before leaving and returning for the obligatory (two song) encore. The final song saw Bergman return to the stage to sing harmony vocals on ‘Thrown Right At Me’.
And that was it; an hour and a quarter didn’t seem long enough and, actually (for the afore mentioned £20.00 ticket), wasn’t long enough – but there was quality in every second of those seventy five minutes.