Iron & Wine fall into the category of artists whose music I’ve enjoyed for years but who I’ve never seen live. I had a ticket for one show at the Knitting Factory circa Our Endless Numbered Days, but ended up having to pass due to a prior commitment, and the progressively larger venues they’ve played have seemed at odds (to me, at least) with the intimate qualities I like the most about Sam Beam’s songwriting. (Still kicking myself for missing the Calexico tour, though.) This tour, which found Sam Beam playing the relatively intimate Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side, made for an odd starting point: the set list abounded with rarities, and Beam would occasionally pause mid-song if a line or chord hadn’t gone as planned. The overall effect, though, was charming, and I was reminded of exactly why I’d been drawn to Beam’s music from the beginning. And given just how forceful his vocal delivery was on many of the songs, it looks like my “well, maybe I won’t get tickets for the show at the Bowery Ballroom/Webster Hall/etc” mindset was, in fact, completely wrong. Highlights included “The Trapeze Swinger” and “Sodom, South Georgia,” both of which were searingly played and sung.
Also: Matthew Perpetua makes a fine point here about not always picking up on Beam’s lyrics on an initial listen.