An incident at Malmo station yesterday meant my train to Stockholm was cancelled. I took advantage of an extra night in Copenhagen by going to see The Tallest Man on Earth at the extraordinary new DR Koncerthuset, a venue that looks like a giant cave, hewn out of granite and lined with oak. It turned out to be a magical experience, witnessing a unique performer entertaining with panache in a singular venue.
It must be an incredible setting in which to perform, with the stage surrounded on all sides and seating protruding out at all kinds of juts and angles. The Tallest Man did seem to need to keep taking it all in, gazing up and down and all around between songs like Caliban tormented by spirits, except that Tallest Man was clearly having a ball.
A lesser performer might also have wished he’d brought a backing band, but Tallest Man effortlessly filled the hall with just his mighty voice and a guitar or banjo, albeit with seemingly endless stream of different instruments emerging for each song.
It was mesmerising stuff from the moment The Tallest Man on Earth bounded onto stage, performing an almost balletic circuit of the stage. The energy levels never dropped throughout the two hour set, as the singer proceeded to stretch, writhe, and variously contort himself in ways that didn’t seem possible while continuing to play a fast-paced finger-picking guitar.
Tallest Man is reputedly a Swedish folk singer, although it was hard last night to pin him down to one genre, so idiosyncratic is his style. Between songs he occasionally conducted bizarre monologues in English, including an extended break where a lost specialist fingernail needed to be replaced, an assistant emerging with glue and a prosthetic.
He’s an odd character indeed, and fond of interrupting gorgeous melody with jarring staccato, often using a stomp on the wooden stage to dramatic effect. But many of his songs are beauty personified, including my favourite of the night – ‘King of Spain’, a fast-paced story about wanting to reinvent oneself: “I am a native of the North Pole / And that could mess up any kid / If you could redirect my name / I wanna be the King of Spain”.
As he explained at the start of the concert, The Tallest Man on Earth aims to make his audience happy by performing melancholic songs. Less convincingly, he also pledges on ‘The Wild Hunt’ that “I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone”. I doubt many who were at the DR Koncerthuset last night will grant him that aspiration. Instead we left the ice cave for our bikes and scooters with a smile on our faces and the certain knowledge that we had just witnessed something special. I still regret that was forced to let people down by being unable to get to Stockholm, but some kind of karma once again ensured that all worked out for the best.