I’ve gone on record as saying I’m not a huge fan of the latest Tallest Man On Earth record. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just more of a Wild Hunt fan. So seeing that Kris Mattison was playing with a full band didn’t instill me with the greatest of confidences. It didn’t take long to convert me, though, as the band played songs both old and new that stayed true to the intimate sound we’ve come to know. I still preferred the blocks of time when it was just Kris on stage playing guitar and singing, but the rest was cool too.
This was my first time seeing Tallest Man live, and I hope to do it again. I wasn’t sure what to expect, having heard that his shows can be fairly quiet and powerful. That second part was true last night, and maybe having the band lends a more freewheeling vibe to the proceedings, but it seemed like a lot more fun that I thought it would be. Hell, he came out jumping up and down and doing twists in the air like he was trying out for the Swedish gymnastics team. Later he did a handstand and then cartwheeled across the stage. This one’s a firecracker, that’s for sure. He came off much more approachable than I thought he would, giving a little background to some of the songs (my favorite of which was “Revelation Blues,” a great tune, which he said was a “stupid joke with myself.”)
The set list pretty much lined up with every other show on this tour. Covered all the hits and played some deep cuts. He only sat down for “Thousand Ways,” and he went to the back to play piano on “Little Nowhere Towns,” which he dedicated to opener Aly Spaltro, aka Lady Lamb (who put on a great set herself). I was surprised how many guitar changes were made throughout the course of the show. Through 19 songs there were maybe 16 changes. He must really beat the crap out of his instruments when he plays, so the guitar tech kept busy and got a deserved round of applause toward the end of the show. Kris broke a string in the first couple minutes of the opening song “Fields Of Our Home,” which made me laugh a bit. He commented after “Maybe I don’t need six strings anyway.”
There were a lot of great highlights during the show. For me, the biggest were “Wild Hunt,” “Love Is All,” “King Of Spain,” and an astonishing version of “The Dreamer” that almost turned Thalia Hall into a dance party. Kris got lei’d by some girls in the front row about halfway through the set. I’m not sure I “got” what that was about, but he seemed to enjoy it. He seemed to enjoy pretty much the whole night, which was nice. Always good to have a performer that’s as excited to play as you are to see them.
The band he’s currently touring with are a group of super talented dudes. Most notably Mike Noyce (Bon Iver) on lead guitar and violin, and Ben Lester (S. Carey) on keys and pedal steel. Mike Lewis (Andrew Bird, Bon Iver) rocks the bass, clarinet, and sax while CJ Camerieri (yMusic) plays French Horn and trumpet. Throw in Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, S. Carey) keeping the beat and you’ve got yourself an all-star squad with whom to make music.
Tallest Man has a couple more weeks of touring through the midwest and south before heading home to Europe in October. You can find the remaining US dates here. If you can get tickets, I suggest you do so.
Head over to our Facebook page to see even more pics from the show. Some highlights are below