One of the best things about Portsmouth is the Prescott Park Arts Festival. More specifically, the River House Restaurant Concert Series. While my musical interests generally don’t align with some of the performers pulled in for these shows, there are always a couple events I feel the need to attend. One of these “can’t miss” shows was The Tallest On Earth. I have discussed this particular Swedish folk rock musician at least a couple of times as part of our “Rainbows In The Dark” series, so this was clearly a date that I had marked on my calendar as my most anticipate non-metal concert of 2016.
For those unfamiliar with the particular venue I’m referring, allow me to provide a bit of background. The stage is set up right in the heart of the 10+ acre Prescott Park, which runs along the Portsmouth waterfront. The stage is multi-use, as concerts, plays, and movies all factor into the summer lineup (this explains the curious backdrop you see in the images above). But what I really want to focus on is how nice of a spot this is to watch a show. It’s predominantly lawn seating in front of the stage, with some tables and chairs a bit further back — which is where we were situated. The lawn is a gentle slope downward to the stage, so usually visibility is not an issue. While the space can feel congested and walking around is a bit awkward because of the set up with concessions, bathrooms, etc, I’ve generally enjoyed every show I’ve seen here. Plus, the open air environment offers fantastic acoustics and overall unique concert setting by the water.
As for the performance, The Tallest Man was opened by a local musician known as Lady Lamb. I had never heard of her or her band, but it turns out the lead singer is from Portsmouth and today the group is based out of Portland, Maine, barely an hour north. She offered a unique display of indie folk rock during their fairly substantial opening set. Filled with energy and a catchy rhythm through most of her songs, she certainly managed to catch the attention of the audience. Perhaps a bit more upbeat than the headliner, Lady Lamb performed impressively and will become a name I pay a bit more attention to going forward.
But we were all still here for The Tallest Man On Earth, who took the stage sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 and played until about 10:00. His set featured many of the highlights from the most recent album, Dark Bird Is Home, including “Darkness of the Dream”, “Sagres”, “Timothy”, and the opening track this evening in “Fields of Our Home”. And while this album provided a significant portion of his set this evening, he still managed to offered a broad range of his work from past albums, including one of my personal favorites in “1904” from There’s No Leaving Now. All of these tracks sounded crystal clear in the open air setting regardless of where you were positioned. I took plenty of opportunities to wander around with my camera, and whether I was directly against the stage or out in the distance, the performance sounded fantastic.
One of the better aspects of this show, however, was how dynamic his presentation was. During most of the tracks, he brought out his entire band. This allowed him to capture the varying instrumental layers contained within many of his songs. The sound was full and there was a comfortable energy to the set. However, for specific sections of tracks, the stage was mostly his own with his acoustic guitar. Performing a handful of acoustic tracks in this manner enhanced the differing emotions and energy levels he puts into his music. He made mention (on several occasions, to be sure) that he was here to sing “sad songs”. And he did. The emotionally-trying nature of his music is part of what makes it so distinguished, in all reality. So the way in which he performed them made all this emotion behind the music more relatable. Furthermore, these different stage elements kept the set, which ran well over an hour, captivating to the audience throughout. His music can easily lull a listener to sleep, so avoiding too much consistency in his stage presence was key.
When all was said and done, and I began my march to the Portsmouth Brewery after the show, there wasn’t a single thing I didn’t enjoy. It was a great weekday evening on all fronts. The sound was incredible, the performance was interesting, and the setting was perfect. The great thing about these outdoor shows is that an artist can begin his performance in full daylight, and conclude long after the sun has set. Seeing these tracks performed as the sunlight diminished was a really cool natural aspect to the show. But beyond that, I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty pumped to have everything all said and done before 11:00 (unlike my Boston shows) and to avoid a ringing in my ears for the next few of days. Minor, but important, benefits of these shows. In all, it was another job well done by the Prescott Park Arts Festival. If you haven’t attended one of these shows, be sure to make that happen if the opportunity ever presents itself. I will most assuredly be going to more in the future. Now enjoy some more pictures that I didn’t manage to work in above.
“Ein Bier… bitte”