Every inch the Scandinavian feral child, Kristian Matsson scampered on to the Vicar St stage, eyes wild and searching around the crowd. The sparse stage, merely a guitar and piano, could have felt even sparser as the thin, white-vested Swede doesn’t cast much of a shadow but his forest boy persona does fill a room, certainly when he’s actually playing. Now on a third full-length album, he has fully embraced the Americana, accented, literally and figuratively, through all the songs. Opening with the album’s first track ‘Just to Grow Away’, he gives as much as you could ever expect one man and a guitar to give, from a standing start. The powerful nasal voice coupled with a full sound from his guitar style, not to mention a hyperactive presence, rouses from the off. There’s something of the troubadour about him that appeals as more of alternative take on, say, a Glen Hansard type character and it’s easy to see why the Dublin gig is a sell-out.
Switching between the acoustic and an electric guitar, plus a bit of piano, Matsson maintains an energetic line through the show, though it never obviously peaks or troughs – probably the nature of a one-man gig. Individual pockets of people are thrilled by certain songs they came to hear (girls beside us swooned to ‘The Dreamer’, us to ‘Where Do My BlueBird Fly’. As he put the guitar down there was an amusing “boo” which became a cheer as he neared the instrument again for the closing songs.
A beautiful ‘Revelation Blues’ took us near the end via a uninteresting cover of ‘Graceland’. The afore-mentioned swoonsome ‘The Dreamer’ closed the show at the piano, the last notes hanging in the still air. You can’t fault the Swede for his musicianship and delivery – earnest and committed when in the songs, though his feral antics and awestruck-ness at being in Ireland wore out a little as the night went on and perhaps upset the desire to just lose yourself in the delicate music. Crowd-pleasing and honest in the main, few would have gone home wanting and most seemed touched by what was at the root of it all.
Photos by Stuart Bradfield