Last Night: Iron & Wine and Alela Diane at the Triple Door"/>
I knew last night's show was going to go well when I walked up to the Triple Door a few minutes late, hoping someone would be outside, smoking, and find it in their heart to give me one, bum that I am. And there was just one person: Sam Beam (who has cut his hair since the photo here was taken). He was standing there with who I think was his sound-check guy, and while he'd only brought the one smoke from inside, he could not have been sweeter and more gracious. Especially since I acted like a babbling fool. What do you say in that situation? "Your music makes me feel like life has a purpose?" That's awkward (and no, I did not say that.)
Before I further embarrassed myself, I rushed in to see the second half of Alela Diane's set. A folk singer from Nevada City, California, Alela Diane just released her second record on Rough Trade. If you haven't heard her music yet, you should take a minute and go listen to a few songs, because Alela Diane's lovely, clear voice and pastoral folk songs could give Neko Case a run for her money. And I can't think of anyone who would've made a better complement to Sam Beam on last night's bill. It was just her, standing in the middle of a bare stage with her acoustic guitar, singing about cuckoo birds and burning paintings, and I was very impressed. I hope she plays a headlining show up here soon.
Sam Beam came on around 9, and like Alela, it was just him and an acoustic guitar onstage, except that he played sitting down. The show was comprised of fan requests; people basically voted for their favorite songs online, and the winners made it onto the set list. I was curious to see if Beam would play anything from The Creek Drank The Cradle. Unfortunately, he didn't. Which is what I should've asked him out there on the street (you know, if I hadn't been too busy acting like a babbling, starstruck halfwit): will you please play "Upward Over The Mountain?"
I didn't ask, though. And so he didn't play it. But the show was still incredibly poignant. It was the kind of performance that makes your chest tight with joy. The kind that gives you that concert afterglow when you leave, as if you've just been reborn and all of the things that were wearing on you before you got there have been lifted from your shoulders by some benevolent angel. And I have never seen such a reverent, good-natured crowd. When Beam played, the place went silent. SILENT. Everyone loved him so much that even when he'd stop in the middle of a song to correct himself-- he told us that a lot of the songs we'd requested were songs he'd forgotten how to play-- the crowd laughed along with him and let him start over. This happened two or three times. Someone also, in the interim, asked him what his favorite book was. He first kidded us ("what's a book?"), then waffled, then decided on East of Eden and told us that the Steinbeck connection runs deep in his band, as the name Iron & Wine was actually taken from The Grapes of Wrath. A friend once told me Beam was boring live, and I couldn't disagree more. I thought his stage banter was charming and clever, and besides: we came for the songs, not the chatter.
Beam opened with his wonderful Postal Service cover of "Such Great Heights," which practically bowled me over with feelings. I hadn't listened to that song for years-- not because I don't like it, just because I think I wore it out listening to it so many times and had to put the thing on hiatus-- and I'm sure all of you out there know how music and memory marry when you listen to a certain record a lot at a certain time in your life. He also played a couple of new songs, including some tracks from that upcoming collection of B-sides, Around The Well, which comes out on the 19th. Beam even played one sweet, nostalgic song that was new to us, but which he's been working on for twelve years and had never before performed in public because he was worried about the lyrics being "too saccharine." And even though it did begin with "Mary, do you remember," Beam can pull nostalgic ditties such as this off. He's just that good.
The show wound on to include plenty more requests, including "In Your Own Time," which has never actually been released but went viral and became so well-loved that the thing actually made the cut for tonight's all-request set. It's also been called "Fuck Like A Dog," because that lyric is in the song, but that is not the song's true name, thankfully. And I was thrilled to hear that other people love one of my favorite songs of his from the Woman King EP, "Jezebel," as much as I do.
The best part for me, though, was hearing songs from Our Endless Numbered Days, an album I never really managed to get into because I felt that even though the songs on Our Endless Numbered Days were as wonderful as the songs on his preceding record, The Creek Drank The Cradle, they had been sullied by overproduction. But when Beam played "Naked As We Come" and "Passing Afternoon" without all the studio fanfare, I finally felt like I might be able to go back and appreciate that album more than I did when it was first released five years ago. Because what's underneath all that production is really, unbelievably lovely. Which is why I think I'll always like Sam Beam best the way he was last night: a little rough around the edges, playing stripped-down incarnations of his songs and laughing at his own mistakes as if he was playing in his living room to an audience of friends.