Iron & Wine at the Paramount

I’m a huge fan of their album “Our Endless Numbered Days” and I had heard that Iron & Wine did an interesting job of translating their minimalist album sound into a full band sound live. I bought a ticket off Craig’s List and went to check it out myself Friday night.

The opener was Caliphone. Honestly they didn’t do much for me. They sounded like great background music, but nothing they played stuck with me.

Iron & Wine took the stage around 9:20, and the first thing I noticed is that Sam Beam looks like he hasn’t had a haircut in a long time. They had 7 people in the band including two percussionists, and several multi-instrumentalists. They opened with “Love song of the Buzzards” which is my favorite song on the new album. It was lovely and I was optimistic about the prospects for this show.

I had also heard from others who saw a show on this tour that the majority of the set was from the new album. This rumor proved to be true as well. The new album is fine and good, but not as good as OEND, so I was a little disappointed at the under-representation by that album. I definitely remember hearing “Sodom, South Georgia” (very pretty) and definitely remember not hearing “Naked as we Came.” Some songs translated well to a full-band sound, but honestly some not so well. I think it is a tremendous challenge to pull off mellow songs in a large venue, and I’d honestly say they were kind of hit and miss throughout the set. Sam mentioned that he and the female backup singer (did I hear that was his sister?) were sick, so maybe their performance lacked something as a result.

When they left the stage after the main set, they got an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. I thought I had heard that they played somewhere between 4-6 encore songs when I read a review of a show from this tour, so I was hoping that I’d hear more of “Our Endless Numbered Days.” When Sam came back to the stage, he was only accompanied by the female backup singer and he announced “we’ve got one more song for you.” I hoped that he was bullshitting us, but I immediately got nervous because we hadn’t heard “The Trapeze Swinger” and if he was serious about only playing one more song, this was my last shot.

He noodled around on the guitar for a couple seconds to keep us guessing, and then started fingerpicking some chords. It wasn’t until he sang “please… remember me” that I was sure what song he was playing.

Let me be perfectly clear – this song alone was worth the price of admission. This is simply one of the most beautiful songs in existance. The first 4-5 verses were just him and his guitar, and it managed to turn that large venue into a very intimate-feeling setting. Then towards the end when the harmonies came in, I got chills many times over. My iTunes has a “smart playlist” for my top 25 most played songs. Guess what #1 is? You guessed it – The Trapeze Swinger. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to it 52 times. You would think that I would be fairly desensitized to it by now. You’d be wrong.  That’s because it’s the best song evar.

What’s amazing about this song is that I cannot claim to fully understand the lyrics. For most of the song, I don’t know exactly what he’s alluding to. And somehow it doesn’t matter. I’m not sure what the story is, but I’m 100% sure it’s beautiful.

So to summarize, the middle of the concert probably gets a B+, but the encore was so spectacular it bumped the whole event up to an A.  Very worth your time if you get a chance to see Sam and the gang.

Now here are some ridiculously poor cell phone photos to prove I was there:

Iron & Wine 1

Iron & Wine 2

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