Mar 12, 2008

Iron & Wine @ Manning Bar

Expectations can be a strange and wonderful thing. Too high and you can end up feeling let down. Too low and you can be in for a great surprise. Well, Tuesday night at the Manning Bar was a night of low expectations. Not because I regarded Iron & Wine as a lesser talent. It's just that I am not a card carrying member of their fan club and I thought that even with a six member band behind Sam Beam it might just be a night of pleasant songs. Nice and relaxing, but nothing to keep locked in the memory. How wrong was I. This show turned out to be a richly rewarding experience, full of enormously subtle beauty, incredibly inventive musicianship and a lead man who warms your heart without barely breaking into a sweat.

"The Shepherd's Dog" proved last year that Sam Beam was more then just a solo troubadour, softly strumming his ballads. It had funk, sass and soul. A real departure. The journey from acoustic to electric would see Beam employ six able and talented musicians to take on the road. However, would this mean a full rocking affair, fast and furious. Would it strip his songs of their quiet, inner beauty? How would they approach his older material? Well I can report that the live show is a resounding success. Opening with three older songs, Sam performed on acoustic, with only his Sarah joining him on vocals. This was a beautiful start to the night, especially the epic and moving "The Trapeze Swinger". Perhaps this was a nod to his older acoustic days. The rest of the band duly joined him on stage and what a treat they were. Truly inventive and intuitive, they added beautiful and unique touches to each and every song. Which delighted me no end as I was thinking that maybe it would be a raucous and loud night, the band potentially drowning out the soft and tender vocals of Sam Beam. This never happened. What did happen was a rich and elegant tapestry of sound, with each song being stretched and pulled to its limits before slowly dissolving into the next. There was barely a break, just a flow of great music. I especially enjoyed the drumming, beautifully textured, and the delectable pedal steel of Paul Niehaus (Calexico). And the percussionist, not sure of his name, was out of this world. Playing all manner of instruments, bells, shakers, drums amongst many others, he was a constant delight. Another development of the night was that the potentially fast paced songs, such as "White Tooth Man" and "Boy With A Coin", were played at a languid pace. So you could still sway in enjoyment, but at the same time hear the innate delicacy contained within. The highpoint of the night came at around the middle. "Upward Over The Mountain" was a deeply moving affair as Beam brought the song to a delicate hush, before the band swept the song along to a rousing finish. At this point I figured the night had crossed into special territory. "Peace Beneath The City" followed with great results. Its effortless groove proving captivating. Other delights were "Sodom, Georgia" and the closer "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)" which evolved into an ecstatic jam. The band then left the stage to rapturous applause, before returning to play a sublime rendition of "A History of Lovers". It was truly a surprising and bewitching night. The songs were delivered with loving care, ranging from soft ballads to expertly played rhythmic jams. All of the band played with a superb and easy touch, rendering each song to its fullest. Therefore enabling Sam Beam's work to shine. Shine it certainly did, in full.

Set List
The Trapeze Swinger
Each Coming Night
House By The Sea
The Devil Never Sleeps
White Tooth Man
Cinder And Smoke
Upward Over The Mountain
Peace Beneath The City
On Your Wings
Boy With A Coin
Sodom, South Georgia
Woman King
Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)

A History of Lovers


  • At March 13, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I thought their songs lacked the groove + bounce from the latest record. I was disappointed.


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