The obligatory height jokes aside, The Tallest Man On Earth does deliver a colossal performance. Kristian Mattson’s mixture of intricate plucking and on-stage vivacity have earned him widespread acclaim and it is perhaps a testament to his burgeoning popularity that he stepped out at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in front of a sold out crowd of 2,000 fans, a far cry from the paltry 350 devotees attending his London date one year previous.
Kristian Mattson’s stage presence is bewildering and thrilling in equal measure. He stared out into the crowd with wide-eyed wonder frequently during his set, as if enticing each individual member of the audience into his world of love and loss. Indeed, one certainly does plumb the depths of despair as well as taste the ecstasies of love during Mattson’s performance. ‘Where Do My Bluebirds Fly’, a regretful ode to a lover with “kerosene eyes” is quickly succeeded by ‘You’re Going Back’, a lively and lolloping tribute to an unnamed friend. Mattson’s voice, composed purely of smoke and gravel, was often stretched to its very limits resulting in a passionate and enthralling rendition of ‘Love Is All’.
He is without doubt a captivating character with boundless energy (his admirable efforts to remain in his seat during certain songs were often in vain) but after numerous months of touring even Mattson is now apparently aware that with a larger following comes larger expectations. One man on a stage for an hour and half is becoming a challenging prospect for even the most attentive of modern audiences and so Mattson enlisted the help of the bassist and drummer from support group Francis to inject songs such as ‘King Of Spain’ and ‘The Dreamer’ with the punch necessary to have his tunes reverberating off the back walls of the Empire. Although the smouldering simplicity of ‘The Dreamer’ was detracted from somewhat with the inclusion of extra instruments, Mattson can feel himself wholly vindicated in his decision for ‘King Of Spain’, the one moment in the set which elicited 2,000 sets of fervently clapping hands. Intercepting looks between Mattson and his makeshift band was tantamount to glimpsing into their own private lives, emotion dripping off them like sweat.
By the time Mattson returned to treat the audience to a sprightly banjo-led version of ‘Kids On The Run’ his triumph was already assured. Before he dove head-first into the ‘King Of Spain’, Mattson assured the audience that “this is for you and you only”. As he tore through the song with reckless abandon, his lovelorn eyes widened once more, one could not bring themselves to doubt his conviction.
From Ben Hickey.