Late evening. The Fox Oakland was full of its usual audience — noncommittal Bay Area music-goers loitering in and around the theater while an opener occupies the stage. This Thursday evening, it was a quiet set from Hiss Golden Messenger that launched us toward what the audience was truly there for: a charismatic performance by none other than Kristian Matsson.
M.C. Taylor’s short sojourn on the stage at the Fox Theater was a welcome, familiar sound like that of Johnny Cash. However, he fell largely on deaf ears due to technical difficulties that proliferated the set, causing the already small portion of the audience that was listening to check out.
After this brief buildup, The Tallest Man on Earth burst forth to loud cheers as he pranced back and forth several times, throwing off his coat, before finally settling center stage. Despite his somewhat folksy sound, Matsson had a stage presence that is beyond what the audience might expect from his recorded sounds. An intense performer, he made the crowd aware that he was aware of them, often staring directly back into enthusiastic shouts and other forms of adoration, though shyly accepting the praise.
Matsson set himself on one level of the stage, while his full band — a new addition to the live show — stood behind him on a riser, partially in darkness. The reveal of the full band seemed like an experiment — the band being so far behind him. Matsson still played about half of the set alone like he did on previous tours, but the band filled in portions of his performance this time, allowing Matsson to display his incredible mastery of his instrument. His ability to tear apart and rebuild his songs on a wide array of guitars live shined.
Closing the night with a humble “I will never take nights like this for granted,” Matsson amazed the crowd with his ability to mesh fan favorites like “Love is All” with new songs like “Fields of Our Home.” An a capella version of lesser known song “Like the Wheel” completed Matsson’s tenancy of the Fox stage.
Article and photos by Samantha Putt