Review : Iron & Wine - Live
FolkmusicOnstage in the historical Moore Theater (which used to be a lively Vaudeville venue, and still retains that Vaudevillian sheen), Iron and Wine's Sam Beam is "kind of out of it, kinda sick."
I may be eager to chalk up his laid-back presence to whatever flu he's come down with, had I not seen him perform before. Beam is live, like his music, a hush of a man. He's a big, tall, hairy guy whose onstage persona would lead you to believe he's the kind of man who captures spiders to let them out of the house, rather than squash them. If his songs were living things, they, too, would probably free bugs.
A Lot of Instruments
Last time Beam was in town, two years ago, he played to a shoulder-to-shoulder packed bar in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. He was alone onstage with only his beard and his guitar. His pretty, lyrical songs cut easily through the packed room, hushing it to silence early in the night. This time, however, he's brought eight band members along, who, through the course of the evening, play piano, electric bass, upright bass, drums, percussion, vibes, pedal steel, backing vocals, fiddle, tambourine, accordion and electric guitar.
The new instrumentation isn't terribly surprising, considering his latest album, The Shepherd's Dog is so chock full of sound, making a rather marked departure from his pre-Calexico-collaboration career. Legend has it that Beam's earlier records were recorded at home while his kids were sleeping, which explains the subtle lullaby nature of the tunes. His voice still hasn't stepped too far above a whisper, but The Shepherd's Dog makes other sonic compensations, instead. All of them translate swimmingly into a live setting.
Iron and Wine's New Sound
It's always fun to watch people experiment. What, at first, seemed like a bit of a contrived, deliberate distancing from his previous musical ventures, becomes, as the evening goes on, a more clear experimentation. This is particularly notable on the stand-out "House By the Sea," where the myriad instruments (admittedly, at one point, maybe a bit much) suddenly cut out, leaving Beam singing a cappella for several bars, before rushing back in like a large, forceful wave. Perfect.
The band sticks mostly to material from Dog, playing exquisite versions of "Carousel," "Innocent Bones," and the title track. "Boy With a Coin" deliveres one of the most remarkable performances of the show, with half the band simply clapping behind Beam's scant guitar work. "Resurrection Fern" is clearly the crowd's favorite, as they follow it with a solid few minutes of applause....full text
LatimesblogsHere’s something we didn’t know about Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam: The laudably bearded former film professor and father of five is actually one of the suavest sex jam singers of recent note. True, the moments of baby-making R&B at the first of his two sold-out nights at the Wiltern on Tuesday came tempered with death and cosmic impermanence and a bit of a ’70s yupster-funk sheen. But Beam wasn’t kidding when he titled his latest album “Kiss Each Other Clean” — his current live set puts heavy emphasis on backseat smooching.
Iron and Wine has undergone one of the more remarkable transformations in indie-folk since 2002’s “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” which is nigh impossible to describe without the words “sepia” and “toned.” Beam’s sound was rooted in adept acoustic fingerpicking, close-harmony whispers and lyrics that evoked rural pleasures and spiritual perils without coming off mawkish.
But after an unexpected hit with a cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights,” he hung a hard left into humid Afro-pop guitars, noisy jazz breakdowns and percussive exotica that complemented his ever-stronger singing. It turned out his intimate pleas sound kind of saucy with a bedsheet-tight backbeat.
“Kiss,” his major-label debut for Warner Bros., is his most sonically adventurous yet, but it posed a particular challenge for this round of touring. How does a low-key folk guy wrangle a dozen-strong backing band into something that can hold the Wiltern for two nights?
Well, it turns out that Beam is a pretty excellent bandleader as well as a rustic autodidact. With a cast including veterans of Chicago avant-jazz and Broadway’s production of “Fela!,” he faithfully re-created jazz-prickly cuts like “Rabbit Will Run” (writer John Updike is an apropos reference for his NPR-accessible belt-unbucklers) and skronky Southern soul of “Big Burned Hand.” Beam is a modest frontman, and his ambitions for Iron and Wine have probably outgrown the campfire croon his more mainstream audience wants from him. But his congeniality as a writer belies a savvy and restless ear for arrangements....full text
ContactmusicHaving often relied on the appreciative howls of the audience to intertwine with the solitary sounds of his acoustic guitar, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has added several other musicians to his arsenal for shows in the UK and Ireland. A brief set from Daniel Martin Moore, another constituent of Sub Pop's contemporary community, was well received, but his familiar blend of Kentucky infused folk only served to whet the appetite of those who were readying for the prospect of something different from the headline act. After taking to the stage - all facial hair and effortless calm - Beam and his band introduced a wonderfully impressive full sound, which does little to detract from the frontman's obvious talents with the guitar. The beauty of 'Boy With A Coin', with its undeniably catchy hook is quickly countered by the fragmented yet equally absorbing, 'Me And Lazurus'. During Beam's past performances, in which he placed exclusivity on his soft vocals and twanging strings, it would have been folly to envisage the 36-year-old's sound being bolstered by female backing vocals and.saxophone solos, but it works majestically here and, as mentioned, does little to deter from Beam's musicianship, nor his song writing ability.
The Leeds Metropolitan stage seemed to be a slight anomaly in the band's otherwise tour of intimate and grandiose venues, and I could only help but imagine how their progressive sound presumably worked effortless with the surroundings of the Edinburgh Playhouse or the Dublin Olympia. However, Beam and company seemed thankfully wrapped up in the music and other than a few quips with the audience - mostly concerning St Patrick's Day - they assuredly ploughed through the rest of the set and delivered a neat ensemble of musical arrangements and toe-tapping melodies to satisfy even the most discerning of audience member. 'Wolves' (Song of the Shepherds' Dogs) from 2007's acclaimed 'The Shepherd's Dog' was greeted by a pocket of muted whoops and cheers, but it was the sensational 'Lion's Mane' that earned the plaudits. As the evening's penultimate offering, it wrapped up the set with aplomb and was perfectly complimented by the rhythmic saxophone. After the brief flurry of excitement that was 'Tree By The River', complete with audience handclaps, Sam Beam and Iron & Wine departed, leaving behind a lingering sense of appreciation for their expansive and generous new sound. Whether this 36-year-old South Carolina native chooses to retreat back to the wondrous seclusion of his solo act or experiment with these new ideas is hard to predict - but the group have made a substantial case for the latter on their tour of the UK and Ireland....full text
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