[4 July 2009]
John Vanderslice has paid a decade of dues writing infectious, subtle pop grooves for the masses. His latest record, Romanian Names, is one of the most solid efforts from start to finish in his career, full of vigor and life. Unfortunately, the tracks haven’t been developed to their full potential in a live setting, falling somewhat flat compared to his elder material. In all fairness, it could’ve been an off night at Nashville’s Exit/In, but the band didn’t seem into it and it seemed a great deed to get Vanderslice himself into the performance. It also doesn’t help that half the audience left after the opener, one of the songwriting world’s most secret weapons, the Tallest Man on Earth.
The Tallest Man on Earth
Sweden’s the Tallest Man on Earth is actually anything but that, however his charismatic stage presence gives him the presence of his title for the duration he is under the spotlight. Forget the Dylan comparisons and all the brouhaha that sells this man short—he’s the real deal and his songs reflect it. Listening to his lyrics it’s hard to believe that a foreign-born mind has such a deep understanding of the English language—more so than most lyricists that dwell in the States. His presence on stage and off is completely genuine. He takes the time to talk to those that came to see him and establishes the connection by looking at his audience one by one in the eyes with a stern, yet playful stare. Not many people can hush a bar with an acoustic guitar (I’ve only ever seen Bon Iver do it at the Exit/In), but this mans a true workhorse behind the six-string. Also, he was celebrating the one-year reunion of his first gig in the United States, which took place at the Basement in Nashville. Not an easy act to follow, for any performer.
The Tallest Man on Earth
John Vanderslice has been in the game long enough to understand that these things happen. I deal him the greatest respect for taking Tallest Man on Earth on the road and exposing his talent to people and cities that have never had the pleasure of seeing him. Vanderslice is comfortable enough with his own position as a songwriter and performer to let the songs take the forefront. The tracks he played off his 2005 release, Pixel Revolt were dead on and more sparse than usual, due to the standard limitations of a live band. For a Tuesday night in Music City, Vanderslice actually had a half-decent, attentive audience (which is asking a lot of in this town). I’d love to cross paths with the man and his band when the songs from Romanian Names have had more time to develop, and I’m sure he could deliver just the way I had wished at Exit/In.
John Vanderslice drummer