Iron & Wine
February 25, 2014
Better than: That show at Dorsch Gallery where he kept fucking up his songs (though he still fucked up a few songs last night).
After last appearing in South Florida with a huge band that included a horn section and two drummers, Samuel Beam, the man behind the impressionistic moniker Iron & Wine, returned to the area with just a pair of acoustic guitars. He also brought along singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop from California.
With her hushed singing and deliberate, rhythmic plucking of an electric guitar, she provided the ideal warmup for Iron & Wine. The tightly-packed crowd stayed so quiet for her that you could hear one guy crunch ice cubes in the crowd and laughter coming from the bathroom. Hoop played pretty, stripped down versions of songs that are actually quite layered and complex from her discography.
Before her last song, she told the audience, "Thank you for being gracious." And they in turn sighed an emphatic "awww" in unison when the DJ booth turned up reggae music before her final song concluded.
Beam stepped out exactly a half-hour later, right on time, at 9 p.m., to an explosion of cheers. "So I don't really have a set list or anything," he told the crowd. "Is there anything you want to hear?" He was met with a barrage of hardly intelligible requests, as everyone seemed to yell out a favorite song at once. "I can only do one song at a time. Man, you guys are the ideal crowd," he said before opening the show with a song written during his days living in Miami: "Lion's Mane."
"I wrote this tune not far from here, so it's nice to play a tune that has a connection to the place," he noted after finishing. Later on, he played "Bird Stealing Bread" adding, "I don't know if I wouldn't have written that tune if I hadn't have lived here."
Beam offered plenty of banter between his austere, evocative songs. As the requests kept coming, someone just yelled out, "Feed us your soul!"
"Trust me when I say, you don't want to taste that," Beam responded.
"I speak for all of us," said the mysterious voice in the crowd. "It would taste divine."
"You all are so fucked up," he responded to laughter and added something about his wife not even liking the taste. At times, the evening felt like a comedy show interspersed with a few sullen songs to reveal the beauty and ugliness of life unvarnished. Sometimes he messed up the melodies or forgot lyrics, but everyone laughed it off, and he would start again.
During "Each Coming Night," he paused for a lyric. Then a chorus of sweet female voices wafted from the chord correcting him. "So fuckin' embarrassing," he said as he continued.
Beam would whistle when some songs were clearly missing instrumentation. During "Woman King," he went, "caw, caw, caw," and paused to say, "This I what we call a musical interlude. Now imagine an amazing solo. Imagine a bird making love with a whale and their love cries turned into marshmallows." People burst out laughing. "That's what my soul would taste like."
It was a fun dichotomy. Beam knows how to make acoustic songs interesting, throwing in extra, rhythmic plucks between strums, walking up the guitar's neck for strident hooks. Everyone stayed raptly quiet during the songs, but when he offered a tune "from the Iron & Wine buffet" the voices poured forth like seagulls at a feeding frenzy. At some points, Beam would just respond "thank you, thank you" to each request from the crowd. But he loved the requests. "Man, you guys are so much fun. I know I keep saying that, but it's for emphasis."
He played for about an hour and a half, drinking nothing but sips from a pair of water bottles on a stool between tunes. His songs spanned from across his decade-plus career. He offered one new song, which will prove quite catchy when it sees release: "The Waves of Galveston." It had a nice swinging, climbing chorus.
Toward the end of the show, Beam invited Hoop to the stage to do a song they recorded together, which he first introduced as "Bohemian Rhapsody" (It was the "undressed" version of "Hunting My Dress"). The combination of their singing heightened just how effortless and relaxed Beam's delivery is in comparison to the sometimes overly affected but sweet cooing by Hoop.
Before walking off with a wave and lots of thank yous, the audience asked for more. He soon returned to offer "Biting Your Tail," a song from his later period that he said "went nowhere."
It was a nice show that revealed that Beam is as earthy a man as his own music. One of South Florida's most successful exports into the commercial world, he seems the most unchanged by fame and truly appreciative of his audience. He has harnessed the threat of a heightened ego and instead cultivated confidence. It should provide him with continued success in the decades to come. He also promised a return visit again soon.
The Crowd: Blandly dressed young couples holding hands
Personal Bias: I've seen him nervous in front of audiences, in the early days.
"Rabbit Will Run"
"Such Great Heights"
"Big Burned Hand"
"Bird Stealing Bread"
"Peace Beneath the City"
"The Waves of Galveston"
"Low Light Buddy of Mine"
"Jesus the Mexican Boy"
"Each Coming Night"
"He Lays In the Reins"
"God Made the Automobile"
"Grace for Saints and Ramblers"
"Boy With A Coin"
"Hunting My Dress (Undressed)" with Jesca Hoop
"Flightless Bird, American Mouth "
"Biting Your Tail"
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