Iron & Wine and Calexico | 12.13.05

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Mississippi Nights, St. Louis (December 13, 2005)

As I stood in line waiting for the couple hundred or so people in front of me to enter Mississippi Nights for Iron & Wine and Calexico’s sold-out show, I found myself engaged in conversation with a group of college kids. One girl in particular questioned why she was even there that night, saying, “This isn’t really my kind of music. From what I’ve heard of Iron & Wine, it’s just sad and depressing.” Her friend was quick to point out, “It’s not depressing! Listen to the lyrics. If anything, it’s hopeful and optimistic.” It was an apt way to describe both the music and the way it felt to be going into the show.

Once Calexico had finished their energetic set—and after a mini-set of flamenco guitar by Salvador Duran, whose contributions can be heard on the title track of the collaborative Iron & Wine/Calexico EP In the Reins—Iron & Wine’s set started with only Sam Beam on stage, accompanied by nothing but an accordion for the first song, “Hickory.” As the show progressed, more members of both bands were added and subtracted as the songs allowed.

The collaboration between Iron & Wine and Calexico seemed especially fluid on songs such as “Free Until They Cut Me Down,” where Beam’s lilting voice coupled with the instrumentals to create an even fuller sound. Another such song was “Evening on the Ground,” where heavy guitar riffs brought the show to an aural climax that led to one the evening’s loudest responses from the crowd.

The encore brought the show to a close with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and In the Reins’ closing track, “Dead Man’s Will.” As I walked out of the show, I came across the same group I was in line with earlier. It looked like the girl got the message, as she and her friends were smiling on their way out the door.

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