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The Tallest Man on Earth @ Troubadour, 3/26/09

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Photos by Jeremy Oberstein/LAist.
Looking like a rockabilly dandy with James Dean hair and a Clark Gable mustache, The Tallest Man on Earth otherwise known as Kristian Matsson took the stage last Thursday night looking like the most American Swede I had ever seen. With his neatly rolled up sleeves, tight jeans, and old fashioned shoes, Matsson dressed the part of a troubadour from the early 1960s reminiscent of a young Johnny Cash. So much so that at one point someone yelled out Cash's name for no apparent reason to which Matsson smiled and said, "I think he's dead, sir."

Reflecting the stark simplicity of The Tallest Man on Earth's set the stage was bare. There were no flashing lights or smoke machines. It was a man, a guitar, a microphone,and a wooden chair. Holding the audience rapt attention, Matsson filled the air with intricate melodies on his acoustic guitars which contrasted sharply with his harsh gravelly voice. The only rhythm section that was the clapping of the audience keeping time with the music.

It warms the cockles of my heart whenever I see a mass of people watching a singer/songwriter and here's why: people often complain that the rise of pop music has killed our poets. They bemoan the fact that young people don't bother memorizing poetry any more like they used to before the invention of radio. But these are people who don't know their history. Our poets are not dead. They are our songwriters. We are actually reverting back to the old school poetry telling, setting our poetry to music, like Homer, Shakespeare, and Chaucer did. (Of course not all songwriters are poets. Case in point: whoever wrote the lyrics to My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas is no bard.) But cheezy radio pop aside, the Tallest Man on Earth and other songwriters of his ilk are writing our poetry. The stuff that we will be quoting to our kids, our friends, and perhaps when the mood strikes our lovers.