Iron & Wine | 11.14.10

Perhaps inspired by the turn in Paul Simon’s career with Graceland, Iron & Wine ventured into unfamiliar territory mixing a variety of genres.

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

The audience was packed like sardines at the sold out Iron & Wine show, as lead singer Sam Beam was greeted with a loud, warm round of applause from his dedicated fans. Sporting a classy new ‘do and a trimmed beard, Beam traded his signature mountain man look for the elegant style of a classical composer.

Announcing that St. Louis was his guinea pig show, Beam thanked his invisible band as he glanced around the black stage filled with abandoned instruments. Staring back into the single spotlight, Beam chuckled and explained that later in the show he would be joined on stage by his two-week-old band, and that St. Louis would be their debut appearance.

Beam opened his set with a sincere a cappella rendition of “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” from the 2008 Twilight soundtrack. The crowd attentively listened to the carefully tuned falsetto floating throughout the room. Beam’s intimate vocals resonated as he picked up his acoustic guitar for an impactful ending.

Beam played his short solo set with the suaveness of someone who’s been on the stage all his life, in his signature fluctuation of wispy vocals atop familiar finger plucking. Breaking song mid-way through “Naked As We Came” Beam commented on the audience participation, saying, “I’m gonna bring you guys on the road with me.” He finished off the song and gave the crowd an appreciative round of applause.

Beam’s sweet, nostalgic story telling came to an abrupt halt as his six-person jam band approached the stage. An eclectic collection of individuals, including Calexico’s Nick Luca on keys, the band appeared nervous and anxious as they looked for Beam’s distinct cues to begin—further solidifying his role as the composer.

Perhaps inspired by the turn in Paul Simon’s career with Graceland, Iron & Wine ventured into unfamiliar territory mixing a variety of genres (blues, jazz, reggae, funk, pop, electro) with a series of desynchronized instruments, including conga drums, tambourines, a mandolin, a violin, a banjo and an assortment of effect pedals.

While the compilation of sound did provide Beam with an innovative texture to his beautifully simple sounds, the reinvention of Iron & Wine came across as forced, as if Beam was getting bored of his expected performance and was experimenting.

Still well received, Beam encouraged his hecklers with a back and forth of I love you’s and carried the evening out in a confident conversational tone, as if the entire room had known each other forever. Beam even reminisced about his strange “shirtless man” experience the last time he played the Pageant, in 2008.

If attendees lacked the prior experience to distinguish the differences between the tours, Beam was sure to let the audience know that no tour is alike, proclaiming, “You end up playing these songs so many times; sometimes you gotta fool things up.”

Often artists rework their studio sound to entice the audience into repeated attendance. Sometimes it works, making the show fresh and progressive. Other times are not as successful. One thing remains true: each Iron & Wine tour gives its fans a new perspective on a nicely varied selection of classic favorites. | Kelly Glueck

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