Show Review: Tallest Man on Earth @ Antones (9/18)
Apparently the hottest ticket in town belonged to The Tallest Man on Earth, which is both surprising and deserved. Of course the quiet atmosphere was surely ruined by the constant chatter that is ever present at Antones, but it didn’t stop the beautiful music offered from TME and the opening band S. Carey. While a lot of attention has been given to Sean Carey for his participation in Bon Iver, his set at Antones with his bandmates indicated that he is quietly coming into his own, ready to eclipse the shadow. He’s touring in support of his excellent album All We Grow, and we were treated to a fair amount of the work off this recent release. Standout songs of the set were “Mothers,” “We Fell” and the closing number “In the Stream.”
S. Carey is primarily the work of one man, but in the live setting, there’s a four piece operating in unison, creating uniquely building harmonies, at times using 3 of the 4 members to stack melody atop melody, such as in the track “We Fell.” What I enjoyed most about the performance was the band’s ability to really create all the minute details of All We Grow live, which is not necessarily seen in our present days of technology driven media. You tie that in with Sean’s lush vocals floating off into the crowd, and you’ve got one incredible set. It was short-lived, but quite pleasurable.
Clearly, the band du jour was The Tallest Man on Earth; I had no idea he was so popular. It’s no surprise though, as his latest release, The Wild Hunt, is still in consideration, in my mind, for top album of the year. Kristian Mattson walked to the stage, a little bit unsure of himself, in the most endearing way possible. He seemed in awe of the crowd, or perhaps just the history of the venue. Still, one man on stage with his lone guitar creates quite a striking image, but despite his shyness, he definitely commanded the stage with a great bit of command, receiving cheers from the ladies each time he walked to the edge of the stage.
His set was dominated by songs from The Wild Hunt, though he stepped back in time to offer a few tracks from Shallow Graves, not to mention phenomenal new track “Like the Wheel.” Personally, you can feel a bit of Dylan on Mattson’s albums, but in the live setting, its a lot less noticeable. That throaty bit of Dylan has an inflection change in person, taking on a much warmer tone. In fact, everything about is live performance was a whole lot warmer in quality, due mostly to the one-man performance aesthetic, which makes the Tallest Man on Earth a whole lot more personable. “King of Spain” sounded incredible in the live setting, even getting a few handclaps to start it off from the audience.
Kristian’s guitar playing really is about as solid as you could ask for, putting all of himself into his playing. Each time the heavy-handed strumming came, you could see his body go into it, as he crouched over his guitar in an effort to get every last bit of sound. But, let’s not forget that in order for a performer to win over the audience, they have to be a bit likable, if not playful. His boyish smiles during track such as “Love is All” definitely served to win over the crowd in his favor, as if he needed that at all. He walked about the stage, roaming, searching for every bit of energy he could get from the audience, and we gladly gave it to him in turn.
The Tallest Man on Earth closed out his set with a bit of a duet with an unknown female vocal accompaniment, but he returned to great applaud minutes later to give us a couple of more songs. It was a night full of beautiful performances from both S. Carey and Kristian Mattson, reminding us that some of the most magnificent music is still being made with instruments you can’t buy at the Mac Store.