The Tallest Man on Earth @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 3 Nov

Kristian Matsson is in complete control as he brings his subversive, frenetic folk to Edinburgh

Live Review by Lewis Wade | 06 Nov 2019

Julie Byrne sets out the stall in the way you might expect of an indie-folk show; all yearning melodies, delicate fingerstyle guitar, hushed vocals and plenty of sitting down. As The Tallest Man on Earth, Kristian Matsson doesn't really subscribe to that school of thought, acknowledging the design behind his own subversive revelry about half way through the show: “You guys are great. I know two hours of folk music can be tough...”

A tinderbox of frenetic energy, Matsson seems preternaturally averse to staying still. He literally bounds across the stage to the anthemic tones of Håkan Hellström before opening up with the banjo-led Waiting for My Ghost. New album, I Love You. It's a Fever Dream. dominates the set, but there's a good mix of material from across his career, all performed solo on a variety of guitars, banjo and keyboard.

Matsson is a born performer; hamming up his introductory solos, throwing around percussive stomps and drawing out final notes with all the pomp of a '70s shock-rocker. Even his warm, friendly banter comes coiled in the growly snark of a genial joker. But there's an endearing sincerity to his rapport, best exemplified by an impromptu a capella duet of The Moonshiner with a perenially out-of-time audience member.

And you can't argue with the music – the strumming is furious and intonation continually toyed with, but Matsson is in compete control, even when his freewheeling duckwalk threatens to topple him over towards the end of 1904. I'm a Stranger Now features a dramatic unplugging, an overturned stool and Matsson descending into the pit for a jaunt through the crowd as they chant the titular refrain.

Following this with King of Spain and The Dreamer is an overwhelming finale that causes a good chunk of the audience to leave, understandably assuming that that sort of showstopping one-two must be the end. But there's still time for a jangly rendition of The Wild Hunt and a plaintive, piano-led There's No Leaving Now. Seemingly determined by his own words, Matsson has no desire to get off the stage, soaking up the applause even after the house lights come on and You Can't Hurry Love signals that it's time to go.