The Tallest Man On Earth at the Sydney Opera House

6 March 2013

Kristian Matsson is a singer-songwriter from Sweden who performs as The Tallest Man On Earth. He is, in fact, very small.

Irony aside, I enjoy TTMOE’s songs a lot. They’re quite troubadour folk-y, very Dylan-esque. His voice is heartfelt and unique, and it makes the songs feel ethereal. His lyrics turn some very clever phrases, and his instrumentation is simple yet accomplished. Matsson typically just sings and plays guitar, or occasionally piano, with no other accompaniment. The Dylan thing is really striking, especially when he includes lyrics about “boots of Spanish leather” and when you find out that his wife Amanda Bergman performs under the name Idiot Wind.

He had a show at the Opera House last night that I found out about late in the game. Luckily one became available at the last minute and I was able to sneak along.

The Tallest Man On Earth. Photo from Sydney Opera House.

The Tallest Man On Earth. Photo from Sydney Opera House.

I found TTMOE live a more rewarding experience than I’d expected. It’s just Matsson with his voice and guitar, and a piano for one song. But he swings his tiny body all around the stage, strumming and spinning his legs and his guitar, ducking and diving. It’s a far more expressive use of the stage than just sitting and playing and singing. It endeared him to the crowd, as did his sips of tea (or of whatever was in that cup) and his assertion that Swedes are discouraged from feeling overly proud of anything.

He started strong with “King of Spain” but covered all his albums (highlights: “I Won’t Be Found” from Shallow Grave, “The Wild Hunt” from The Wild Hunt, and “1904” from There’s No Leaving Now). He sounded great live, clear and vibrant, and he put lots of dynamics – volume and tempo – into the performance. We got one last highlight at the end when Bergman came out and duetted much of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” inserted at the end of “The Wild Hunt”. So pretty.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so strong and spontaneous a standing ovation at the Opera House.

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