The Tallest Man On Earth at Vicar Street, Dublin, 21st October 2015
If you’ve never seen the Kristian Mattson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth, live the first thing you’ll note is that he is significantly smaller in stature than his stage name would suggest. He makes up for this with his larger than life performances: Elvis-style twisting and shaking, bounding about the stage like a ballerina or standing on one foot like a flamingo.
Vicar Street is packed to the rafters for tonight’s sold-out show in support of his latest album ‘Dark Bird Is Home’, a deeply personal affair which also features a broader palate of instrumentation than previous instalments, however it is a solo version of the old Irish folk song The Moonshiner that opens proceedings, perhaps to remind us that he has not forgotten his roots. It’s a song that was famously covered by Bob Dylan and, considering the similarities that have been drawn between their voices in the past, it is a brave opening gambit.
Dressed all in white, with both t-shirt sleeves and jeans rolled up, Mattson is joined by his backing band for new songs Slow Dance and Fields Of Our Home. “Thanks for coming out”, he says, “I’ll never take this for granted”. It seems like a genuine sentiment from a genuine guy who possesses that uniquely Scandinavian ability of speaking English like he’s never known another tongue.
Singers is introduced as being about “fishing and my grandfather and not being able to sleep and stuff… but mostly about stuff”. It’s a little joke that he keeps returning to – everything is about specifics and stuff, the stuff protecting him (and us) from the specifics. Timothy from ‘Dark Bird…” is a set highlight, but is left in the dust by Love is All, the opening notes of sends smartphones into the air, as Mattson dismisses the band for a solo performance. He toys with the crowd when they attempt a clap-a-long by slowing right down to throw them off the scent. He apologises for the tactic later, blaming the drummer in his head who doesn’t like clapping, but it’s a little facetious in truth. He continues solo for The Gardener, which provokes another mass singalong, and also Thousand Ways.
These solo forays aside, Mattson is thriving on the full band experience, in particular The Wild Hunt and the euphoric release of King of Spain sound like they were written to be played with a full band, his brother amongst them on guitar, violin and backing vocals. He is always charming, even when his comments are barbed such as when he asks the crowd who was in Vicar Street last time he played. Cue a large cheer from the crowd to which he responds, “remember how you booed me?”. He may not be the tallest man but a big voice and a big personality go a long way.