Endless numbered June: Desiree Weber reviews Iron & Wine

Categories: Concert Review

Iron & Wine
First Avenue Main Room
Wed, June 11, 2008
Review by Desiree Weber
Photos by Daniel Corrigan

Things have changed since Iron & Wine barely filled the 400 Bar and before their songs appeared on movie soundtracks. For one thing, way more people have heard Sam Beam’s folksy take on indie singer-songwriting and have fallen for his lush vocal stylings, which explains how First Avenue’s Main Room was packed last night.

Iron & Wine at First Avenue. More photos by Daniel Corrigan.

The show opened with Sam Beam on acoustic guitar, offering a rendition of “Trapeze Swinger,” but even the sparse arrangement filled the space and hushed the crowd. In fact, I’ve rarely heard the main room as quiet as it was for the first third of the set – people were paying attention. And for good reason, since the first few songs showcased acoustic guitar, pedal steel and him-and-her vocals (with the help of Sam’s sister, Sarah).

Fans of 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days can easily imagine Beam’s hushed tones delivering evocative, poetic lyrics over mellow arrangements. There was quite a bit of that last night, but mirroring the shift on 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog, the rest of the set featured a fuller sound – at times up to 8 people filled the stage. The sounds of violin, pedal steel and brushed percussion were enriched with steel drums, electric guitar and various other knick-knacks to showcase a wider range of influences.

Overall the set was a wide mix of songs from albums old and new, EPs and singles (see set list below). Stand-out songs from the new album included “Boy with a Coin,” which features a twangy pedal steel and robust rhythm and emerges into a reggae-inspired guitar line and “Carousel,” which I’ve decided is my new favorite song. The longest jam of the night was kicked off by “House by the Sea,” which arose with a plucked bass intro and descended into an extended deconstruction, flowing seamlessly into “The Devil Never Sleeps” and “White Tooth Man,” both songs off the latest record.

If there is one criticism to be leveled, it may be that the set list seemed more attuned to the summer festival environs and less so to a club gig. Seventeen-song, jam-filled fun seems more palatable when you’ve paid to be there for the whole day and you’re relaxing in the shade with a cold brew. But alas, it’s not everyday that a musician as talented as Sam Beam is allowed to jam to his heart’s content. And since it was good enough to elicit spontaneous applause, then it was certainly good enough for me.

SET LIST
1 – Trapeze Swinger
2 – He Lays in the Reigns
3 – Resurrection Fern
4 – Sea and the Rhythm
5 – Peace beneath the City
6 – Boy with a Coin
7 – Sodom, South Georgia
8 – House by the Sea
9 – The Devil Never Sleeps
10 – White Tooth Man
11 – Upward over the Mountain
12 – Carousel
13 – Cinder & Smoke
14 – The Night Descending
15 – Love and Some Verses
16 – Woman King
17 – Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)
Encore – A History of Lovers


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