The Tallest Man on Earth, an intentionally ironic stage name for Sweden’s nymph-like Kristian Masson, came to Somerville theater on October 1st, to the giddy delight of a packed crowd of happy hipsters. As expected, he delivered a mind-blowing show with no more than himself, a chair, and a few amazing guitars. And a Stella for hydration.
A review of the Tallest Man is not complete with out a comparison to Bob Dylan, so I’ll just get it out of the way. The guitar-plucking virtuoso is famous for his raw vocals and soul-smashing lyrics. Like Dylan, Masson nails a kind of forlorn restlessness that is both youthful and world-weary. He winks at this association in some of his songs, like in the galloping ballad, King of Spain, when he declares,
And I wear my boots of Spanish leather
Oh while I’m tightening my crown.
I’ll disappear in some flamenco
Perhaps I’ll reach the other side.
“Boots of Spanish leather” is a reference to a song on Dylan’s 1964 album, the Times They Are A-changin. But in contrast to Dylan’s deadpan style, Masson possesses the winsome charm and staggering eloquence of a modern-day troubador.
Endearingly bashful, yet bold and quick-witted, Masson had the audience the Somerville audience in the palm of his hand every second of the show. Given than his lyrics are so abstract, at least I was left salivating over the intimate morsels of inspiration he imparted.
A Tallest Man break up song does not follow the whimpering script of Ben Harper number, but would strike you in the gut with lyrics like the following from “Love is All”:
And now spikes will keep on falling from the heavens to the floor
The future was our skin and now we don’t dream anymore
No, we don’t dream anymore
Though seemingly nonsensical, his non sequiturs are perfect for the task. When have love and break ups ever made much sense, after all? He seems both amused and heartbroken by the transience of life: of friends around kitchen tables, of aimless road trips and impossibly starry nights.
Let us float in the tears
Let us cry from the laughters
When it’s not for some sake
And the city’s not near
In case you were wondering ladies (and gentlemen, for that matter), Kristian Masson is very much taken. He sang his last song in a duet with his exquisitely adorable fiancee. I was surprised the top floor of the theater didn’t collapse from the weight of the audience’s collective swoon.
Speaking with him after the show, I was bowled over by his sincerity and unthinkable depth of modesty. He expressed his appreciation for supportive audience, his desire to share the music he loves so much and to “just do the best [he] can.” But the life of an itinerant musician is a tiring one, with his rustic home in Sweden ever-beckoning his return. But luckily, a few more American audiences get to experience his humorous commentary and wrenching cri de coeurs before he retreats to his native North Pole.