Iron & Wine's Large Band Brings an Intimate Show to the Paramount, Saturday Night"/>
Saturday, Sept. 10
Sam Beam may have started small with his personal folk songs and low-fi production, but>"/>
The Paramount Saturday, Sept. 10
Iron & Wine
Saturday, Sept. 10
Sam Beam may have started small with his personal folk songs and low-fi production, but with January's Kiss Each Other Clean, he continued the trend that began on The Shepherd's Dog, adding more instrumentation and more complicated arrangements to his poetic, intimate stories. And with his nine-piece band in tow at the Paramount on Saturday, he brought that evolution on the road.
There was still plenty of the Iron & Wine of yore in the band's live show, however, particularly in their bare-bones approach, which featured a barren stage save for a black curtain and the group's gear. There was no fancy light show, no arresting visuals, and nothing to distract the audience from a man, his beard, and some emotional material.
Beam addressed the crowd only briefly during the set, and much of his banter was mumbled as he nervously adjusted his mike stand while he talked. "I should really rehearse some anecdotes," he joked, realizing he was talking about the weather. Beam let his personal, poetic lyrics connect with showgoers instead. "It is good in my lady's house," he sang on a track from his 2005 Woman King EP. "And the shape that her body makes/Love is a fragile word in the air on the length we lay."
The band, which included two backup singers, a percussionist, and a sax/flute/clarinet player, was fluid, tight, and versatile, jamming for extended periods under moody lights, channeling Wilco more than Nick Drake. There was no solo acoustic portion of the set, and Beam played full band arrangements of acoustic tracks like "Jesus the Mexican Boy" and "The Sea & the Rhythm." Though the band was energetic, Beam was a sleepy bandleader in black collared shirt and black blazer, occasionally nodding at his players but mostly just closing his eyes to deliver his whispery vocals, which were often buried in the mix.
Though Beam began his career as a straight-ahead folkie, he has pushed his vision into new territories, evolving into an artist who is just as interested in challenging himself as in expressing it. He stayed away from a predictable set list on Saturday, instead offering a wide range of material from his entire career--and saving just a single song for the encore,
"Naked as We Came," "Tree by the River." Beam may lack the charisma of some of his generation's greatest songwriters, but he certainly has the talent, and for now at least, that seems to be plenty.
BTW: It was surprising to find the main floor of the Paramount sans seats for a folk show.
Hey, asshole: Put your fucking phone away already.