- by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date: Label:
The last time Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) came through town, it was a solo show. That’s a bit of an underwhelming statement compared to the reality of it. At that show, Beam strode on stage with acoustic guitar to much applause, paused and asked: “What do you want to hear?” That was the format for the next ninety minutes and it was amazingly intimate and effective. Some kid in his dad’s lap yelled out for ‘Dead Man’s Will’ and left me with nothing to do but be awed. There was no buffer between Beam and his audience that night many years ago, and though he had a four-piece primarily acoustic band in tow this time, the wall between artist and fan remained very transparent.
Iron & Wine’s combo this time out included Beam up front flanked by standup bassist, Sebastian Steinberg, and cellist, Helen Gillet. Harmonizing with Beam throughout were keyboardist, Eliza Hardy Jones, and ever so deft drummer, Beth Goodfellow. The group was well in synch, shading many quiet moments while also finding spots to kick things up a minor notch. The opener, ‘Winter Prayer’, was barely recognizable in its barebones approach but made for a subtle entry point. Like the prior show I had seen (though there it was invited), the audience felt compelled to banter with Beam between songs leading Beam to quip “it’s going to be one of those nights.” And it was, with someone suggesting Beam help us Floridians count run-off ballots as we so like to do down here, leading Beam to remind us that “math is hard.”
The ensemble hit full stride after the solo break, with the limber groove of ‘Trapeze Swinger’ locking in seamlessly and Jones’ vocals on ‘Muddy Hymnal’ set that song apart. The more recent ‘Call It Dreaming’ and ‘Song in Stone’ showed that Beam is still composing at the top of his game. ‘Woman King’ gave the band a chance to rev things up a bit while the Byzantine tracings of ‘Boy With a Coin’ were mesmerizing to follow. Putting together a great set of songs from throughout his catalog, Beam showed himself to be a gracious and engaging performer once again, this time out with a little help from his friends.
All photos: Christa Joyner Moody