Iron & Wine at First Avenue, 6/8/11

Categories: Last Night

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Photos by Steve Cohen
Iron & Wine
June 8, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

Sam Beam (otherwise known by his moniker Iron & Wine) arrived on the First Avenue stage nonchalantly as his 10-piece backing band filed on stage. He looked every inch like an old Southern gentleman, dressed in a dark suit and smiling mildly at the audience--which promptly erupted in applause and cheers.

"You guys are crazy!" laughed Beam. "All right, we're gonna play some music, and then we're gonna check back in shortly, okay?"

He opened with "Rabbit Will Run," enjoying himself and the contribution of his wind section. As Beam progressed through the 90-minute set, he brought to life the songs from his January-released Kiss Each Other Clean as well as introduced new arrangements of old songs. Beam's band was made up of a swarm of talented musicians, including new additions Marketa Irglova (the Swell Season) and Rosie Thomas on back-up vocals. Along with two percussionists, a keyboardist, and a full wind section, Beam lead the audience into a funky new sound.

Beam pushed himself vocally while hardly breaking a sweat, beginning "Walking Far From Home" with a soft a capella, so gentle you could hear everyone in the audience quietly singing along. He followed with "Wolves," which erupted into a lengthy (5+ minute) jam session midway through that recalled a trippy '70s vibe. It was there, in those moments where the clarinet and the saxophone were spotlighted, that Beam shone as his moved around the stage, clearly having some fun. On "House by the Sea," Beam let his band play up the Latin vibe.

In some ways, Beam far exceeded the amped expectations of the audience. He navigated his sound well out of the realm of bedroom folk, taking our hands into an extraordinary new world of full band operatic sub-pop folk genius. Beam's songwriting surpasses most other categorical comparisons--and there is no one else in his genre that matches his graceful, subversive storytelling, which unfolds oh-so-delicately. The new sound that he is working with--the big band influence and jazzy compositions--might exasperate some original fans, but will also bring in new ones. As Beam closed the night with the quiet and utterly powerful "He Lays In The Reins," it was clear that wherever he wanted to go musically, he would have a following.

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Photos by Steve Cohen
Critic's Bias: I thought Shepherd's Dog was brilliant, and I thought Clean was even better.
The Crowd: Young and old, and uncharacteristically polite for a super sold-out show. Overly polite, almost, like visiting a Caribou Coffee or going to Wells Fargo.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Minneapolis LOVES YOU!" screamed a guy before Beam had started playing.
Random Notebook Dump: I would be remiss to overlook the fantastic openers, Head and the Heart, who will surely not be touring as openers for much longer. Their piano and violin driven folk sound was pure and accomplished; relatively simple, in comparison to the big band sound and experimentation that Beam would unleash on the audience, but in some respects, the openers managed to hold the crowd's attention better than the headliner.
For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.

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5 comments
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jayceman
jayceman

This was one of the musically respectful sold-out crowds in the Mainroom, in a long time.  Thanks to most, for heeding the STFU for an act like this. (why weren't the Paul Simon or Death Cab crowds more respectful?!) 

Show itself was evolved and good, though maybe a little bloated at times with the jam band freestyles, trippy instrumentals, and giant 10pc band. 

setlist (...I think)

Rabbit Will RunGod Made the AutomobileEvening On the Ground (Lilith's Song)Glad Man Singing Boy With A CoinWalking Far From HomeWolves (Song Of The Shepherd's Dog)Weary Memory Jesus The Mexican Boy Free Until they Cut Me DownIn My Lady's HouseOn Your WingsLion's ManeHouse by the SeaLove And Some VersesThe Sea & the RhythmTree By The River

Cindal
Cindal

I was late to the game. I walked in around the very end of the set... Upon entering First Ave. (prior to seeing the set-up on stage, I heard what sounded very much unlike Sam Beam, and what sounded more like a alt-progressive rock band [I wasn't even sure until I saw Sam Beam on stage that it wasn't the opener and things had bent backwards].) Then he played "House By The Sea" - Of course, one of his older songs, I was graciously happy to have caught - and it sounded much like a Mexican Cantata set to a punk/jazz band. Not complaining. But it was nothing short of ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. I've seen Sam Beam play solo/acoustic at Folk Fest a few years back - When "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" was the type of setting... I'm torn, it's different, but inviting nonetheless.  

Michelle
Michelle

I was kind of disappointed in this show. I'm not one who is only there to hear the "hits," but I know a lot of I&W songs, and I think I only recognized 3 songs they played! Would have preferred Flightless Bird or Naked As We Came for the encore... as a former clarinetist, i did love all the woodwinds they used: flute, clarinet, alto sax, tenor sax, bass sax, bass clarinet, maybe more! and what was the thing the trumpeter played for one song? It reminded me of a bird caller.

Ishmail
Ishmail

I know artists evolve and change their sound, but I want the "old" Iron & Wine back. I'm a fan of all Sam's recorded work and loved their set back in 2005. It's hard to rip such a genuine nice guy, but I long for the delicate, intimate songs from his bands early days. The elevator jazz meets Grateful Dead space jams kind of took the wind out of my sails last night.

Angie2mike
Angie2mike

Completely agree.  The "over-instrumentation" also forces Sam to alter his voice to one that doesn't sound like the voice that made him famous and original.  For a die hard, long time fan, this was a let down and I think a touring musician owes it to fans to play songs the way we know them...

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