Real Live Action

The Tallest Man on Earth

with Nurses, May 12 @ St. James Hall

Review By Grace McRae-Okine

After getting hot and sweaty to folkadelic rockers Nurses, the crowd waiting for headliner the Tallest Man on Earth were probably expecting the intensity of the show to dim down. “You seem like sweet people,” singer Kristian Matsson greeted his audience in a misleadingly gentle voice, “I’ll play a soft one for you.”

Fans of the American-style Swedish folk singer were not disappointed by his soft songs as they swooned and crooned along word for word to romantic winners like “The Gardner.” Drawing worthy comparisons to Dylan for his storytelling abilities, guitar plucking prowess, and cryptic lyrics like “I know the runner’s going to tell you/ There ain’t no cowboy in my hair/ So now he’s buried by the daisies/ So I could stay the tallest man in your eyes, babe,” there is much about the Swede to love. Armed lastly with looks to kill (think ’70s era folky, extra lanky and bearded), it was certainly difficult not to be pulled under Matsson’s spell.

However, the most pleasant shock of the evening came with over-driven amps, ripped chords and the roaring vocals of a man twice his age as the method of delivery for his solidly folk repertoire. Tracks off Matsson’s newest release The Wild Hunt as well as 2008’s Shallow Grave were performed with more gusto than can possibly be captured in their recorded form.

“So this is a Canadian church?” Matsson remarked during a guitar change and quick tune. “Good. Or not good. I curse and scream in church and I’m not sorry. I’m going to do it again.” Considering his use of open tuning, the song breaks to switch between three guitars were short, sweet and packed with cynically pleasant banter like, “It’s a love song—about a divorce” (before launching into a cover of “Graceland”).

Matsson was thanked for his intense efforts by raucous applause from his Vancouver audience. Dripping with sweat in a church as hot as a sauna, he returned to the stage for a double encore. The crowd was unwilling to let him go. “Thanks,” the dripping Matsson at last sighed, as if to a lover, “I’ll be back in the fall.”