Photos by Carl Scheffel/MSG Photos
It’s been nearly two years since Kristian Matsson, AKA The Tallest Man on Earth, played a show in New York, and a lot has happened since then. He recently released a new record called Dark Bird is Home, which provided a lot of material for his sold out show at the Beacon Theater.
At exactly 9 pm, Kristian emerged from the audience, wearing the skinniest of black pants and a black shirt. Full of energy, he jumped directly onto the stage, grabbed his guitar and stared strumming the first cords to “Fields of Our Home”, the first song on his new record. Without saying anything, he continued with a few more fresh tunes like “Slow Dance” “Singer” and “Darkness of the Dream”, offering the audience his signature, infectious finger picking. While his hands were on the guitar, his legs never stopped moving — they barely touched the ground the entire time: spinning, lifting, jumping and tip-toeing in a way that was somehow both graceful and feral.
During the set, Matsson performed Dark Bird is Home in its entirety, touching on themes of love, death, nature, wanderlust and solitude. This album has a much fuller, richer sound and a lot more instrumentation, prompting the addition of a full band comprised of Mike Lewis on bass, saxophone and clarinet, Mike Noyce from Bon Iver’s band on guitar and fiddle, Ben Lester on piano and pedal steel guitar, C.J. Camerieri on French horn, and Zach Hanson on drums. While having the band focus on melodies and instrumental hooks was beautiful, removing the focus from Matsson’s incredible lyricism was sometimes underwhelming.
Of course, older songs like “1904”, “Love is All” and “The Gardener” seemed to really excite the crowd most. “I love you!” shouts a slightly intoxicated guy from the balcony. Kristian just stared at him for long time, which of course induced a few laughs from the audience, and then said, “Listen to the song first.” Similar comments like ” I love you” and ” Why are you so good?” continued throughout the set but seemed to do nothing but annoy Matsson. At the end of the day, he chose the seated venue for a reason — so people would pay attention.
The crowd, full of excitement, gathered around the stage after the last song “Dark Bird is Home”, hoping to see Matsson again. He returned for his encore with an older tune, “The Dreamer”, and without his guitar, allowing him roam freely around the stage and dance away the remainder of the show.