Earlier today it was reported that 2010 has been one of the mildest years on record. Entering the early nineteenth century splendour of St Philips Church for this sold out gig on the coldest day of the year so far, nothing felt mild. In fact many kept woolly hats, gloves and coats on while patiently sat on the wooden pews.
Support was Idiot Wind aka fellow Swede Amanda Bergman. She was a curious, elfin and quite shy figure when standing thanking the crowd at the end but behind the piano she was transformed. Pre-show music had included songs from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” which felt appropriate since Idiot Wind reminded me of Christine McVie - or maybe Joan as Policewoman with the arty edges worn down. Her strong clear voice filled out the high ceilinged church, echoing over heavily reverbed electric piano. It was beautiful to hear on first listen but no particular song hypnotised in the way her voice promised it might. She finished with a slow, moody version of “I’ll Keep It With Mine”.
At Green Man, The Tallest Man On Earth reduced grown men to tears in a tent. What would happen in this more spiritual setting?
Well there were no tears tonight that I could see - but Kristian Matsson had pretty much the same mesmerising effect on everyone present. Live he manages to add an extra emotional depth to the songs, with a personal magnetism that draws people in. And literally so – people starting edging along the centre and side aisles or crowding around the seated front row on the balconies over the course of the first few songs. Tuning his guitar or garrulously offering thanks for everyone for coming he appears a gentle soul, self-deprecating and soft-voiced ("I thought Sweden was progressive but I've never been in a church that serves beer"). But when performing with deep growling voice and intricate guitar playing he magnifies the compassion and poignancy of his songs ten-fold.
He played songs from across his two albums and most of the new EP “Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird”. For 'Like A Wheel’ and final song ‘Kids on the Run’ he performed seated at the piano but for most others he wandered the stage with guitar singing out to those seated on the pews below or up to the balconies. ‘King of Spain’ with the crowd hanging on every suspended note or pause was a highlight as was ‘The Gardener’ – watch how he responds to the audience singing along at the end of the song. 'Thrown Right At Me' on the new EP is quite a down-beat almost unmemorable song. Here sung as a duet with Idiot Wind it soared. With heads touching whilst their shared the microphone and some magnetism of their own going on, I suspect there is more to their relationship than touring buddies.
Videos or second-hand reports cannot convey what a special evening this was. The Tallest Man On Earth should never play venues larger than this – it would ruin the magic. And with tonight’s show selling out over three months in advance, next time he is playing anywhere near you, make sure you do not hesitate to grab tickets as soon as they go on sale. A very talented song-writer and very special performer.
The Set List:
A Field of Birds
I Won’t Be Found
Love Is All
King of Spain
The Wild Hunt
Tangle In This Trampled Wheat
The Sparrow and the Medicine
Like The Wheel
Where Do My Bluebird Fly
Thrown Right At Me
Kids On The Run