Show Review: The Tallest Man On Earth @ The Moody Theater (9/13)

I had very high hopes going into The Moody Theater on Sunday evening. The bill was stacked; two artists who take the delicate process of songwriting and make it seem effortless through the tracks that they craft that stun us, two artists riding high off the release of statement albums in the progress of their career, two artists who embody just that word, affecting emotion and spirit with their voices and instruments. Lady Lamb opened the evening up and The Tallest Man On Earth brought it all together, both oozing soul from the stage.

Read on for my recount of how the magical evening unfolded.

The night started in complete darkness as the crowd that had gathered in anticipation for a night of music was silenced by the fading of the lights. A single figure strode onstage in the blackness and picked up a guitar, though she wouldn’t use it for the first song. Lady Lamb, or Aly Spaltro, just a vaguely discernible silhouette in the absence of light, opened her mouth and began to sing, her powerful and commanding vocals resounding piercingly through the large room. The room that had just been alive with drunken pre-show chatter was immediately sobered with the intensity of one voice carrying a lullaby-esque tune. It’s not often that this phenomenon happens anymore, especially during an opening band: with our modern distractions it seems more difficult for a group of size to hold a moment together and focus, but the crowd was still as the first song in darkness rang out. Lady Lamb, alone on the stage stunned all with her voice, and then picked up the guitar to continue the solo set. She blazed through track after track, barely pausing to say a word or two of thanks and gratitude to both the crowd and to The Tallest Man on Earth for having her along. The combination of her vocals with the rawness of her masterful electric guitar playing gave us a stripped down take on the tracks from her newest release, After.

This simple performance was the perfect interlude to the main act of the evening. Kristian Matsson took the stage alone to a roaring crowd with just his guitar in hand, and began to his rapid fire plucking through of a track. Donned in all white, the gentleman raced around the stage, making eyes with the crowd before he opened his mouth to sing. While this exposition was going on, a member of the crowd began to clap off-rhythm to the track, as soon as this noise reached Matsson’s ears, he whipped his head intensely to the source of the noise and slowly walked to the opposite side of the stage so that he could shake his head in the direction of the cacophony and silenced the obnoxious audience member. In these first few minutes of the set, he made it completely clear of who was in control and commanded the crowd’s attention and respect.

He was then joined by the backing band, consisting of four gentlemen who contribute violin, electric guitar, bass, saxophone, drums, slide guitar, synths, vocals, and piano to the mix. They launched into tracks from Dark Bird Is Home which was released earlier this year. While that album showed growth in production and orchestration, it had previously underwhelmed me slightly, but in the live setting, the band’s fullness of sound and Matsson’s power was able to truly shine. Among these were highlights like “Sagres” and “Timothy,” the latter which Matsson described as “his only happy song,” and which served as a delightful start to the evening in the fullness of sound that the backing band helped to provide.

But it wasn’t only the new tracks that the backing band helped to make even bigger; they helped their frontman with older tunes like “1904” and “Revelation Blues,” and as Matsson paraded around the stage he shared grins with all the other members, taking his wild energy and channeling it into everyone around him. At the end of “Revelation Blues” Matsson sat down on the stage with his guitar next to the slide guitar player, and they slowly wound their playing together in a beautiful sequence as the song’s ending. When it had finally come to a close, Matsson leapt up on the stacked part of the stage to give the player a hug with grins abundant; it seemed perhaps an impromptu merging of creativity between the two and the result was an amazing live version of an already gorgeous song.

Of course, The Tallest Man on Earth was also phenomenal on his own. After sending the band off the stage he carried the night with earlier tracks from his catalogue of indie folk. My favorite moment of the night was the rendition of “Where Do My Bluebird Fly,” on which Matsson was joined by Mike Noyce for dueling guitars that gave the track an extra snarl to its already biting darkness.

In my show preview I mentioned that you’d be regretful if you missed out on this night, and I stand by my words– it was the kind of evening that reminds you why you care so deeply about music in the first place.

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