A quiet and awaiting crowd lined Euclid Avenue on the Tuesday night, Nov. 16. The crowd trailed from the doors of the Variety Playhouse where Iron and Wine would be headlining a show opened by up and comers Nomo. With doors opening a half hour before show time, attendees took their choice of sitting room or standing and waited. Nomo took the stage promptly at 8 p.m. as scheduled.
Much of the crowd seemed to unfamiliar with Nomo and therefore had little in the way of expectations of sound. What took stage was an intriguing mystery of two drummers, a bassist, saxophonist, trumpeter and a female percussionist and singer. Their sound was a mix of African beats and deep transient sounds. The electric kalimba was frequently used by different members of the band to create a droning ring that served as the palette for the jazz inspired melodies of the horns.
As their set continued the multi-instrumental talents of the band showed. One drummer made his way between a drum set and the electric guitar while the female percussionist found her place on the synthesizer and the trumpeter played a wind controller.
Few songs by the group included vocals with the exception of the last two tracks. The female vocalist was featured on one while the second contained a chant-like melody where the crowd was encouraged to sing along.
After a short thirty minute set Nomo left the stage and the sound crew came out. In a quick turnaround time of thirty minutes Iron and Wine was now set to take stage. After a few fooling queues of dimming lights Sam Beam quietly made his way to the stage. Much of the crowd only noticed his arrival by the applause of their fellow attendees. Beam arrived with only his guitar in defense.
He began the show with a cappella version of Flightless Bird, American Mouth. Staying in impeccable tune vocally, this first song brought the crowd a step closer to the stage. What followed were three more acoustically performed songs ranging his albums. Each song was accompanied by the soft whisper of the crowd singing along. He ended his acoustic opening with the song Trapeze Swinger, bringing strong cheers from the crowd.
He then beckoned his band up to the stage before informing the crowd that they would not be hearing the album tonight. What came after this statement was an electric driven sound with intricate rhythms and enticing melodies. Even Beam switched from the acoustic to the electric guitar halfway through the set.
The songs of the electric set ranged many of his albums, though surprisingly skipping big hits off of Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days. He also skipped over hits such as Boy with a Coin.
Though Beam skipped many what would be fan favorites, he made it up by unveiling songs off his soon to be released album Kiss Each Other Clean. These new songs were greatly accepted by the crowd. The mystery remains however of whether or not these electric renditions will be similar to what will be found on the album.
Throughout the night Beam was spot on vocally. He was able to swoop into the highs of his falsetto from his lower register without break. His enjoyment of the stage and crowd also came across through his movements and smiles.
Beam was also quite a man of words between songs. He joked with the crowd as random blurbs came from the audience. Though talkative between songs, he did manage to stumble through a handful of his own lyrics on the night.
It was noticeable as well that his band, which he had been playing with for only two weeks by the night, was still in its infancy. Head nods and queues from Beam were frequently used between members in order to keep the music in sync.
Other than the occasional queuing issue the band was a great mix of talent. As the banjo player switched between slide, violin and guitar, the percussionists switched his way through a variety of African instruments. A female vocalist gave backups to Beam along with the pianists and the bassist played on an electric synthesizer on the occasional song. The drummer was confidently able to keep the young group together as well.
Ending the set on Shepherd’s Dog, the crowd was not settling for less. After a patient waiting filled with applause, Beam and his band made their way back out for one last song, House by the Sea.
Despite not playing some of the bigger hits, Iron and Wine pleased the crowd with creative renditions of timely favorites and a festive stage presence.