Review: The Tallest Man on Earth @ Albert Hall, Manchester

Kristian Matsson – aka The Tallest Man on Earth – described performing a solo show in Manchester as “like a stress dream”.

If only all stress dreams were this good. 

The diminutive Swede (he’s 5’7, get it?) is far better live than in the studio, as evidenced by this performance at Albert Hall.

From the moment he leapt onto the darkened stage, Matsson held the packed-out crowd captive, his on-stage energy spell-binding. 

He strutted and hopped across the stage, fixing audience members with an intense stare. 

Songs are interspersed with random monologues – the scary people of Manchester, how his 60-year-old Brooklyn neighbour cured a case of writer’s block, how break-ups are fantastic inspiration for a songwriter. 

He bantered with a heckler, his affable character slipping just for a second when the gent in question continued to shout over a song. 

Matsson even spent thirty seconds whistling like a bird into the microphone. Because he can. 

He doesn’t need anyone else. 

In fact, the only other person who graced the stage during his two-hour set was the tireless Anna, who presented the singer with what felt like a different instrument for every song. 

Matsson’s 2019 album I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream marks a return to his folk roots after the heavier sounds of his post break-up album Dark Bird is Home (2015). 

The set-list mixed the new with fan favourites from early hit albums, Shallow Grave (2008) and There’s No Leaving Now (2012). 

The tracks from I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream were a joy. Not even a mid-song retune could distract from the haunting banjo melodies of the opening number, Waiting for my Ghost

However, it was with an acoustic guitar playing old classics that Matsson really came alive and it’s easy to see why he draws comparisons with legends of the genre Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie. 

I Won’t Be Found beautifully combines intricate guitar with raw vocals, with Matsson becoming perhaps the only musician since Toto to successfully incorporate the word Serengeti into song lyrics. 

The Gardener nails Dylan’s vocal stylings, lines thrown away as we throw away life and love. 

His voice strained through the heavier 1904, referencing the earthquake which hit his native Sweden as another metaphor for life. 

Matsson closed the show to a lengthy standing ovation. Ever the showman, he returned to the stage for two more songs – the relatively up-tempo The Wild Hunt and melodic piano number There’s No Leaving Now

Sadly, we did have to leave, but only after lip-syncing along to The Supremes You Can’t Hurry Love, which came blasting over the speakers for no apparent reason. 

A great end to a great night with one of the greatest showmen around.

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