Last week our far-flung correspondent from Chicago saw TMOE, and she sent me a few words on it yesterday afternoon. Although the space-time continuum ate the week in between the show and her sending it, we're posting anyway.
Tallest Man on Earth
packed Chicago's Park West last Wednesday night with an incredibly devoted crowd, calmly foaming at the mouth as they waited for him to take the stage. When he stepped into the spotlight, towering at a mind-blowing 5'9"ish (thought I'd get the height joke out of the way early on), his singularly impressive picking was so effortless it truly looked like finger-syncing.
Even though I had been warned by David Pitz's words on TMOE's show last spring
, I was a little thrown off by his charisma. He seemed utterly comfortable on stage, encouraging the occasional audience sing-along and filling the dead space while adjusting to another far-out tuning with some light banter, behavior at odds with the rough, lonely voice in his records, which you might visualize trapped on a broad windswept plane. He responded enthusiastically to the guy who was yelling "F*CK YEAH" at the top of his lungs at least once per song, and worked a few curses of his own into the tunes, met by hilarious/adorable/a-little-uncalled-for audience excitement. All that said, Matsson was plenty abashed at times, mumbling something unintelligble ending with "...I mumble all the time, I'll make it up to you," telling us not to buy his EP, and thanking us for being "so nice," since "I'm not that good, y'know?"
While some of the mystery may have been lost in the Tallest Man's affable nature, he brought with it an extra bit of fervor that added even more soul to his powerfully gritty voice. He left the first line of the choruses in "Pistol Dreams" to the audience, who were so enraptured they were already belting it when he dropped out, and of course energy surged higher when he jumped back in. His rendition of "King of Spain" was another powerful one, the desperation of his royal ambitions all the more tangible with his live energy, prompting one fan to shout "you are!" (the king). Maybe not. But he's probably cooler than this dude
His new tracks keep in line perfectly with the older albums, his by-no-means-monotonous consistency probably somewhat responsible for his loyal fan base. Halfway through his new EP's "Like A Wheel" all the sound coming from stage right cut out, leaving inner ear equilibrium imbalanced but suddenly creating a much more intimate setting that felt like an escape from the charisma that startled us all — maybe because Matsson's voice, rather than being a surround-sound all-encompassing force was coming from one direction, more like the one-on-one serenade experience you'd expect. After he told us to sway with him for a bit and we obliged, he apologized for "breaking the place" and after some stealthy movements in the wings technology resumed its job.
After bringing a beautiful and beautiful-sounding woman on stage to harmonize one of his final tunes, Matsson thanked the city for Chicago and left for a minute before returning for his heavily demanded encore. Bringing it to a close with "Lion's Heart" and "This Wind," plus one excitingly unfamiliar song, Tallest Man on Earth left the crowd with a slightly altered but none weakened idea of the man behind the music.A primarily folk musician who can really rock a live show is an impressive and powerful thing, and the Tallest Man's combination of slightly unsettling magnetism, slightly comforting elusiveness,and perfect rawness brings it together just right. -selden paterson
TMOE on Tour
09/30 - Northampton, MA - Pearl Street Nightclub
10/01 - Somerville, MA - Somerville Theater w/ S.Carey
10/02 - Philadelphia, PA - Theater of the Living Arts w/ S. Carey
10/03 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club w/ S. Carey
10/12 - Copenhagen, DK - Vega
11/11 - Malmo, Sweden - Debaser
11/12 - Groningen, Netherland - Vera
11/13 - Kln, Germany - Gebaude 9
11/14 - Frankfurt, Germany - Das Belt
11/15 - St Gallen, Switzerland - Palace
11/16 - Fribourg, Switzerland - Fri-Son
11/17 - Grenoble, France - Le Ciel
11/18 - Basel, Switzerland - Volkshaus
11/19 - Mullhouse, France - Noumatrouff
11/20 - Brussels, Belgium - Botanique (Orangerie)
11/22 - Glasgow, UK - Stereo
11/23 - Belfast, UK - Mandela Hall
11/24 - London, UK - Electric Ballroom
11/25 - Leeds, UK - Brudenell Social Club
11/26 - Manchester, UK - St Phillips Church
11/28 - Utrecht, Netherlands - Le Guess Who?
11/29 - Paris, France - Cafe de la Danse
11/30 - Bordeaux, France - Le Krakatoa Club
12/02 - Barcelona, Spain - Razmataz 2
12/03 - San Sebastian, Spain - Lugaritz
12/06 - Stockholm, Sweden - Soedra Teatern (seated)
12/07 - Stockholm, Sweden - Soedra Teatern (seated)
12/08 - Helsinki, Finland - Le Bonk
12/09 - Oslo, Norway - Parkteatret
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MP3: "Like the Wheel"
The Tallest Man on Earth on Myspace