Monday, November 15, 2010

The Iron & Wine Concert Write Up

First, my expectations were high.  Iron & Wine is one of my favorite bands.  Sam Beam, lead singer, songwriter, and genius behind the group, is hard to beat.  His voice blends just-over-a-whisper to high falsetto without the slightest nuance of a problem.  His lyrics are evocative, calling up imagery deep within the mind that leaves the listener scratching his head and wondering what it means.  Plus, his beard is awesome.  I love the mellow, acoustic sounds that Iron & Wine is known for, and there have been many a day when I've listened to only I&W on my ipod. 

So, with expectations through the roof, I was eager to get to the concert. 

Venue:  The Pageant, St. Louis
Status:  Sold Out
Opening Band:  White Mystery
Main Act:  Iron & Wine
Time:  8:00pm, 11/13/2010

We--my friend Adam and myself-- had standing GA tickets.  The crowd was mostly younger folks, people around my age or younger, I'd say.  And we were basically touching the arms of our standing neighbors.  The opening band was a brother & sister duo strikingly similar to the White Stripes, though the brother played the heavy drums and the sister the raunchy guitar.  There wasn't a song one that I cared for, and I was wondering why a band such as this was opening for Iron & Wine anyway.

After half an hour or so, White Mystery finished and we waited a few minutes for Sam to appear.  He came out, alone, picked up a guitar, and began singing.  Opening with an a cappella rendition of "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," soft and subtle, I knew the night would be something special, that I was in the presence of a musical wonder.  The crowd was hushed and the excitement nearly palpable, and we all loaned our ears over for the rest of the evening.

Following the quiet intro song, he dove straight into a gentle "Trapeze Swinger," a song haunting and beautiful.  Next came "Evening on the Ground," "Naked as we Came," and "Upward over the Mountain."  After these initial five songs, Sam announced that his new band would join in to finish out the night.  This was the first show they've done together and we'd be the guinea pigs.

Basically, the next hour and a half was completely revamped and redone I&W songs.  Two new songs were debuted.  Plenty of familiar classics were played with.  And it's this very act, the ability to take familiar songs and change them around and have fun with them, that blew my expectations out of the water.  "Sodom, South Georgia," was by far the highlight of the night.  Contrasting with the slow, tragedy that is the song, Beam and the band played an amazing version that built to an explosion of crescendo 'ere it was over.  A wild mandolin rift, funky electronic tones, and the beautiful guitars all came together to make an already awesome song even better.  Another great remake was "Woman King."

Another reason why the concert was great was because it looked like everyone was actually having fun on the stage.  The new band and Sam had a few goofs, but they all pulled it off perfectly, making even the errors sound fine.  And some songs almost sounded like Iron & Wine meets Radiohead, which was doubleplus good in my book.  Watching the band experiment and jam on some songs ("Wolves") was pure bliss.

So even though I stood for over three hours in total, and even though I was pressed up against complete strangers for most of that time, I would gladly do it again.  Seeing Iron & Wine in concert was a thrilling experience, and being so close to the stage made it all the better.  If you've a hankering for some good music, music that sounds wonderful and is smart in the writing, then you should be listening to Iron & Wine.  And if you want to go to a concert that'll be hard to forget, check out Iron & Wine on their current tour.

5 comments:

Sam said...

The concert was amazing! I'm so glad I was there. I also posted a review on my blog (dreamoutloud247.blogspot.com) and have a similar outlook to the night as you. I also was confused with the band choice to open for Sam.

Crystal said...

Dang, I would love to hear an a cappella version of "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"! Sounds like it was an amazing show! I will catch them if they ever swing thru Seattle.

BTW, great review of the show!

ibeeeg said...

Glad you had fun. It is always great when a show lives up to expectations.

contemplatrix said...

as if I wasn't envious before...
Beam does have that fantastic beard doesn't he? In the game of "If you could have any singer's voice/gift" Sam Beam is one of my husbands answers.

thanks for sharing this really great write-up. glad I&W met and surpassed expectation.

~L

logankstewart said...

@Sam: Thanks for stopping by. I thought the concert was amazing, too.

@Crystal: Definitely see 'em if you can. Easily worth the ticket price.

@ibeeeg: Great when expectations are met, and legendary when expectations are surpassed, eh?

@L: I like how gifted of a singer he is, low and high without any problems. With his beard and his voice and his songwriting prowess, Sam Beam has won my allegiance.