words and photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
The Tallest Man on Earth at Town Hall - 6/20/12
In December of 2008 I ventured to Town Hall to cover Bon Iver. At the time, For Emma... had blown up over the summer and Justin Vernon and company were holding down two dates a stone's throw from Times Square. Opening for them was Kristian Matsson, The Tallest Man on Earth.
When you cover show after show the opening acts tend to run together. A great deal are forgettable, a bunch impress and you feel they're on to something but not quite there. And then there are those few that stay with you. Lykke Li opening for El Perro Del Mar, Fleet Foxes opening for Blitzen Trapper and Tune-Yards opening for Dirty Projectors are the easiest ones for me.
And then there's Kristian Matsson.
His opening set to a half-filled Town Hall had me riveted. He owned every piece of that stage, his energy and musicianship caught the attention of everyone who had the good sense to arrive early.
On June 19th and 20th, Matsson returned to Town Hall but this time as the headliner. Not so much a triumphant return as a deserved one for arguably the most talented singer-songwriter to come along in the past five years. Nobody performing today can match his output of three flawless full lengths and an EP in that time.
Matsson was flanked by a line of guitars to his right and a grand piano to his left, but everything else was very much the same as that winter night a few years back. And the sold out crowds were his. Shunning the static singer-songwriter schtick, Matsson was at ease as he stalked the stage, buzzing from one end to the other, leaning out over the crowd or staring up into the balcony as he strummed his guitar in between verses. The crowd clapped rhythmically along at the start of "King of Spain" and gave an appreciative applause as the opening strains of "Where Do My Bluebird Fly?" echoed out into the hall.
Matsson's voice was at its plaintive, pleading best on the gorgeous piano ballad (and title of his new record), "There's No Leaving Now," nearly cracking as he shouted the last refrain, "Your fear of the leading light / if they are with you and your heart won't fail." It was the night's most affecting moment. Despite his leanings toward the guitar, the man can write a stirring piano song and it would be great to hear more of them as he continues to evolve his sound, as he does on the new record.
During the encore Matsson played a piano rendition on the night's penultimate song "The Dreamer." And as the show reached its conclusion Amanda Bergman, Matsson's wife, came out to sing on "Thrown Right At Me," both of them inches away from each other as they sang. She departed before the song ended leaving Matsson to soak in the second standing ovation of the night.
Strand of Oaks opened both nights at Town Hall. We posted pictures from the first night HERE. More pictures from last night, the second, below...
Strand of Oaks
The Tallest Man on Earth