‘How tall are you?’ one of the audience asks, ‘You can do better than that’ Kristian Matsson responds. With this in mind let’s get over the height issue straight away. Matsson isn’t the Tallest Man On Earth, he is probably slightly below average if the truth be told and yet his music is anything but. He is a charming troubadour with a croaked voice and fingers that can pluck and strum with thunderous power.
Live, Matsson’s voice is truly intense and as soon as he launches into ‘Pistol Dreams’ the flannel shirted sell-out crowd sings along, attempting to match his unique drool. Throughout his set he prowls intently about the stage with his head bowed, and yet always finds his way back to the microphone at the right moment. He resembles Elmer Fudd from the Bugs Bunny cartoons as he tip toes about, brandishing his guitar like a shotgun.
‘King of Spain’ is another crowd pleaser with its strong melody and rhythm. From the off it’s impossible to deny the comparison to Bob Dylan which has dogged his short career. It’s a comparison he is happy to admit, but claims that you should always steal from female musicians ‘because you’ll always be compared to Dylan.’ Yet Matsson has made this sound his own. He has the depth to deliver songs with strained intensity and then switch to playful optimism.
For an encore Matsson takes to the piano and performs two stunning ballads. The first, ‘Like a Wheel’, from his new EP is one of his most powerful songs with its haunting lyrics ‘Why am I not strong like the hangman’s branch… that will take me home to you.’ Lastly he sings the contemplative ‘Kids on the Run’, a reflective closer, a song which stays with you as you jostle out of the venue and confirms Matsson as a musician of rare talent but, more importantly, genuine heart.
By Jon Davis
The Tallest Man on Earth played the Electric Ballroom, Camden High Street NW1 on Wednesday 24 November.