I have been remiss in writing about The Tallest Man on Earth's new album, There's No Leaving Now, but it's been one of my favorite releases of the year. So I was excited to drag my pregnant wife down to Union Transfer in Philadelphia for an artist who has been in heavy rotation in our house for the past several years.
I always expected Kristian Matsson to be tall (a shocking assumption, I know), so it was a bit surprising when a not particularly tall man walked out on stage. My first thought: "The Tallest Man on Earth? Oh, I get it now..."
More noticeable, though, was that the stage was nearly empty, save for a chair and a small Yamaha piano off to the side. And yet, somehow the Swedish man who was far from being tallest in the room (let alone on Earth) managed to capture and enthrall the attention of the entire sold-out audience.
Matsson is a virtuoso guitar player, a fact driven home by his precise fingerpicking on stage. He blistered through the liveliest of his catalog, focusing mostly on the new album. I began to wonder why he even bothered to have a piano on stage, but he eventually employed it for a touching rendition of "There's No Leaving Now." The piano wouldn't see any use until the encore, which is somewhat of a shame, as his piano ballads are gorgeous. Still, Matsson seemed in too good of spirits to sit down very long. He charmed the audience with a spoken word rendition of the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song, explaining that it was "how Swedish people learn English." He got everyone singing on fan favorites "The Gardener" and "King of Spain." And "Love is All," from 2010's The Wild Hunt, was absolutely captivating.
Check out "On Every Page," the last song before the encore: