Tallest Man on Earth blows the roof off Englert

Kristian Matsson celebrated the release of his latest album in Iowa City.


Wyatt Dlouhy/The Daily Iowan

Kristian Matsson sings during a performance by The Tallest Man On Earth at the Englert Theater on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Matsson, the brain behind The Tallest Man on Earth, released his latest album I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. released on April 19, 2019.

Adrian Enzastiga, Arts Reporter

What appeared to be a dozen wooden crates created two sides of a triangle around the Englert stage, enveloped in fog. One more crate hung from above, and a single beam shot down from it — one spotlight for one multi-talented musician.

That was the opening to Englert’s show on May 2 that brought in Swedish musician The Tallest Man on Earth, Kristian Matsson. To start, he literally jumped on the stage, kicking his legs up high upon his entrance. He began playing almost immediately; he hunched over his electric guitar as white lights reflected off the shiny surface of the crimson-red instrument.

This was not Iowa City’s first visit by Tallest Man, having previously played at the Mill some years previously. Matsson flattered the crowd, exclaiming, “Thank you, Iowa City. I’m so happy to be back,” which earned a loud roar from the audience. In fact, many audience members seemed familiar with him.

He even played one of his songs live for the first time, from his newest album I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream, which was released April 19. This album, as were his others, was written, produced, and engineered by Matsson, and he singlehandedly recorded them in his New York apartment.

Wyatt Dlouhy/The Daily Iowan
Kristian Matsson sings during a performance by The Tallest Man On Earth at the Englert on May 2. Matsson released his latest album I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream on April 19.

His Brooklyn energy was contagious, bouncing with every stroke on the guitar. He had an uplifting personality, fun and carefree, but his body seemed to strain under the weight of his passion. He played the strings at the same rate as the strobe lights that flashed on and off behind him. One might have worried about his dropping the guitar.

He switched from a fast-paced, catchy tune to a slow, emotional piece in just a few seconds. Audience members couldn’t help but tap their hands or feet to the beat of either.

Matsson changed up the mood almost as quickly as he switched out instruments, which he did after almost every song. He used a couple of electric guitars, an acoustic guitar, a piano, a harmonica, and even a banjo for numerous songs. The latter was surprisingly smooth and melodic for a banjo, playing one of his slowest songs, yet the most emotionally strong.

However, his harmonica-guitar combo was probably the most impressive.

He played the piano with the same passion that he played his string instruments. He said, “The only thing you need to know about playing the piano is to play it really hard.” That is exactly what he did as his fingers ran across the keyboard, twitching almost violently with his head rocking back and forth.

One song was especially wholesome, in which he said was inspired by his neighbor who comes home every day and says “Honey, I’m home.” However, he admitted most were inspired by his various breakups. One might compare him to a male version of early 2010s Taylor Swift but more catchy and less dramatic.

In another song, he dragged over a little red stool to sit and play on. While sitting, his feet danced with the music as his shoes scuffed the floor.

He finished with an uplifting three-piece encore that included two of his guitars and the piano. Despite the name Tallest Man on Earth, Matsson humbly brought himself down to the audience’s emotional level and gave a performance that was upbeat and meaningful.