Words by Alistair Rathbone
The Tallest Man on Earth, AKA the rather medium-sized Kristian Matsson, has been troubadour-ing his way around the globe for 10 years now, since the release of his debut self titled EP in 2006. Matsson has slowly but steadily evolved his sound from the rough-around-the-edges, ‘indie Dylan’ stylings of his debut album Shallow Grave to the sophisticated Dark Bird is Home, released earlier this year. Matsson’s trademark yowl has earned him a legion of fans across the globe, a true singer-songwriter in a world of remixes and ‘bangers.
I’ve been hanging off Matsson’s every tortured word since discovering him via a Blalock’s playlist back in 2008, and needless to say, it was a treat to see him take to the stage in such a beautiful venue as the Melbourne Recital Centre, with full band in tow.
THE OTHER GUYS
Gordi has had a hell of a year. After signing to JagJaguwar in 2015, the young Aussie songstress raised in the tiny town of Canowindra, NSW, has since found widespread success through singles Nothing as it Seems and Can We Work it Out, earning her an envied touring schedule and a guest spot performing with label-mate Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver on Jimmy Fallon.
Taking to the stage solo, Gordi quickly showed just how much her busy schedule has helped improve her performance chops, with her unique, powerful voice keeping those yearning for another beer firmly glued to their seats. In performing a new song, Gordi took some stylistic cues from the aforementioned Vernon, with stripped back instrumentation and looped, vocoder-drenched vocals reminiscent of Bon Iver’s latest album 22, A Million. A short set from Gordi, but one that established her place as one of Australia’s fastest rising talents.
THE MAIN SQUEEZE
The Tallest Man on Earth
Taking to the stage with a semi cartwheel, Matsson quickly spread his infectious energy through the almost full Melbourne Recital Centre. Starting solo with an array of tracks spanning his back catalogue, including 1904, The Wild Hunt and Fields of our Home, Matsson had the audience in the palm of his hand. Matsson was then being joined onstage by his backing band (presumably the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tallest Men on Earth), who helped recreate his more recent, instrumentally driven tracks, as well as add extra oomph to old favourites like King of Spain.
An artist famous for his rare use of standard EADGBe tuning, Matsson’s guitar tech had her work cut out for her, delivering a new guitar every song to a constantly fidgeting Matsson. His nervous energy helped add an extra level of intimacy to the show, taking his audience on a self-admittedly depressing journey through his songwriting past.
Whilst Matsson promised us he’d ‘play more music’ tonight after a supposedly talkative first performance the night before, he quickly broke this promise with extended monologues and stories in between tracks, including a request for any Swedes’ in the audience to deliver him some ‘Snus’, a type of Swedish tobacco. I don’t think anyone in the audience minded the interactivity of the show, with Matsson’s humour a real highlight of the evening.
Finishing to rapturous applause and a standing ovation, Matsson and band soon returned for an encore performance of Dark Bird is Home, which of course earned him another standing ovation. A show spanning over two hours, it was a performance from The Tallest Man on Earth that left none unsatisfied.
A personal favourite of mine for it’s raw, DIY authenticity, The Tallest Man on Earth‘s debut album Shallow Grave made several appearances throughout the night, and that authenticity shone through more so when Matsson performed solo an early single from the album, The Gardener. Simple, catchy and full of emotion, never was the crowd more attentive than during Matsson’s delicate rendition of this old favourite.
“I’ve been doing this for ten years now, and I’ve played in some beautiful places all over the world..but I’m still quite insecure…”
-Matsson got a bit uneasy when a few people got up to find the loo midway through the show- only endearing him more to everyone in the room.