Friday, December 3, 2010

ConcertandaHalf #1-The Tallest Man On Earth (Madrid, Spain)

On a chilly Madridleno night, the Tallest Man on Earth proved that he is more than ready to shed the knockoff Dylan monikers, that he is an incredible artist in his own right whose young catalog and stage presence far exceed most veteran artists. His small stage, spartanly decorated by only a rack of specially tuned guitars, amps, a piano, and a few chairs, seemed to fit a little too tightly for the TMOE, who appeared determined to sit in every flat space and pace every open square foot of stage. The gorgeous old theater he played in, built straight up and decked in gold trim and red velvet, seemed to be both barely big enough for his at-times booming voice yet not small enough for his most intimate jams. What a show. 

After a few piano ballads by a women with a gorgeous understated voice and a great afro named Idiot Wind (taken from a Dylan song-strangely catchy name though), the TMOE was ready to begin (Idiot Wind later came out to sing a duet on one mic with the TMOE, with the Swede looking like he wanted to steal a kiss the entire time). Playing to a sold-out crowd, the TMOE immediately made everyone feel very appreciated. He started off by saying that this was his first time in Madrid in 27 years, that the last time he had been in the great city was as a baby in his mother's womb. He promised us a great show to show respect, and he definitely did. Playing a mix of songs from the Wild Hunt, Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP, and Shallow Grave, and seemingly changing guitars which each song, the TMOE aced both his slower ("Love is All") and more upbeat jams ("The Gardner"). What really impressed me most was his voice in person. At risk of at times sounding nasally on record, live his voice often roared with confidence, and he threw in enough ad libs during his songs that even his most often repeated songs on my itunes sounded fresh and vigorous. As a solo artist as well, who did have to change guitars which led to some down time between songs, I thought that the silence during the breaks might become stiflingly awkward. He made sure this didn't happen, telling some dry yet funny jokes and making sure to keep the audience involved at every stop. 

After teaching the song during my classes to rural Spanish students and private lessons, I was most excited to hear "King of Spain." He set the song up with a funny apology to anyone in the audience who was offended, and most importantly, to the actual King of Spain. Ripping into the fast paced strums of the jam, he didn't hold anything back as he went through the images of Spain, and received a big cheer with his "I'm not even from Madrid" shoutout. Afterwards, he humbly told the crowd that he never imagined he would have sung the song in Spain, that he always thought he was going to be stuck in Sweden singing it. Luckily for us, the diminutive Swede with a great voice and even better guitar skills has become international, while still maintaining a humbleness that he is still surprised to be playing in front of audiences like the one in Madrid. With shows as great as the one on Wednesday night, the crowds and venues will only get bigger and bigger. 

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