Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bad Idea Show Review: Iron & Wine at Lakeshore Theater

Sam Beam does not look like a particularly humorous gentleman. Then again, he doesn't particularly have the look of a teacher either, which he was before be started writing songs in the vein of an outdoorsy Nick Drake/Elliott Smith. Despite physical impressions though, Beam is a funny guy, and comedic chatter was on display throughout a solo request-based acoustic show at Lakeshore Tuesday night. At one point when the theater sound system disagreed with Beam's guitar, he killed time by asking if anyone had any questions. Naturally, this prompted the nerdiest question asked at a concert ever. "What have you been reading?" came the request from the middle of the 300 packed seats. Without missing a beat, Beam responded, "Twilight." Perfect. But his literate admirer would not be denied. "No, seriously," he implored. "Seriously? New Moon." Outstanding stuff.

Despite the technical difficulties and dalliances into open mic comedy, the concert itself was powerful stuff. I saw Iron and Wine last year at Lollapalooza, but the time of day and cumulative effect of the weekend kept me from enjoying the set too much. But with the arrangements stripped down to Beam's guitar and voice, along with the setting of playing in an absurdly small and intimate theater, all the lyrical imagery is heightened and as a spectator you don't want to move a muscle.

The fact that the setlist was open to internet voting before the tour started ensured a healthy mix of newer tracks (Boy With a Coin, Song of the Shepherd's Dog) and more obscure older cuts (Upward Over the Mountain), along with a cover of New Order's Love Vigilantes. The spontaneity factor was high while Beam tried to remember lyrics of songs he hadn't played in years, and also remarked on the age old concert-going tradition of cheering upon immediate recognition of a song (Beam: "I always wonder if that means people just really love that first chord, as opposed to the actual song. Give it up for C!")

There are many songs on my iPod that I wish lasted twice as long, but "The Trapeze Swinger" is the only song that clocks in at 9 1/2 minutes, yet still always seems too short when it ends. This was again the case last night when he closed his main set with an epic version of the non-album classic. If you don't already own this track, you should download it from SubPop for free HERE and make your life complete.

The setlist:
Sodom South Georgia
He Lays In The Reins
Woman King
Swans And The Swimming
Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)
Mary Ann
Evening On The Ground (Lilith's Song)
Friends, They Are Jewels
Upward Over The Mountain
Loss Vigilantes (New Order cover)
Pagan Angel And A Borrowed Car
Beauty And A Family
Boy With The Coin
The Trapeze Swinger
Resurrection Fern (encore)

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