Iron and Wine reaches such great heights

Mellow tunes and relaxed vibes filled the Pabst Theater Thursday, September 18. Samuel Beam, under the nom de solo Iron and Wine, hypnotized the audience with his soulful melodies.

Returning to Milwaukee as part of his September Tour, the folk singer was not here to introduce a lot of new music or promote a fresh album but to regale the nearly full house with old favorites and charm us with his delicate yet heart wrenching lyricism.

It has been over ten years since Our Endless Numbered Days, arguably Beam’s most beloved recording, came out. However, the sizable crowd proved that such a timeless artist can retain fans without a steady flow of new material. Listeners were able to sink into his familiar and thoughtful acoustics.

Jesca Hoop, an indie jazz singer/songwriter, opened the show with moody folk songs that, while deviating some from her typical style, showcased her versatility and proced an excellent precursor to the act ahead.

She took the stage in bare feet, curiously fitting harem pants, an elaborate hairdo and a mug full of something she sipped throughout her set.

The music she chose were the more mellifluous selections from Undressed, her most recent album, The House that Jack Built as well as a few brand new, unreleased numbers.

Hoop’s voice, which can easily be compared to that of Alison Krauss or The Civil Wars’s Joy Williams, rose from breathy whispers to dreamy heights, while her songs spun delicate and whimsical images.

(Sydney Widell) Samuel Beam sings soulfully to the crowd. Iron and Wine had an overall easy-going and wistful performance.
(Sydney Widell) Samuel Beam sings soulfully to the crowd. Iron and Wine had an overall easy-going and wistful performance.

Then Beam arrived, cardigan clad and beard in full glory. He opened with “Biting your Tail,” followed by the classic “Love Vigilantes.”

It was apparent early on that Beam did not have a set list prepared, instead he turned to the audience for requests and only rarely did he himself pick the next piece. Some critics found this “Iron and Wine Buffet” irritating; however, it allowed the audience to feel closer to Beam and it gave the night a spontaneous and interactive nature.

Of course he played “Jezebelle,” “Naked as We Came,” “Winter’s Prayer,” a song featuring many Milwaukee references, and “Trapeze Swinger’s” nine minutes never felt so short.

However, definite crowd favorites were missing from the lineup including “Upwards Over the Mountain” and “Someday the Waves.”

Beam’s performance was not without flaws and he frequently forgot lyrics and chord progressions, but the easygoing crowd didn’t seem to mind, and it made him more relatable.

He made his mistakes humorous, once joking, “This is the way they all start,” after losing his place in the introduction to “Love Vigilantes.”

Beam appeared very somber and a little sad, but he delivered the sharpest comments and shrewdly responded to audience members with droll wisdom.

He introduced a new, unreleased piece titled “Thomas County Law,” which embodied the easiness and melancholy we have come to cherish in his music.

Hoop returned to the stage for the last part of the concert and joined Beam in a series of beautiful duets.

They collaborated on songs by both Beam and Hoop, including Iron and Wine’s lovely “Broken Promise Ring” and “Sodom South Georgia” and Hoop’s diaphanous “Hunting My Dress.” Beam concluded the night with the classic “Such Great Heights.”

by Sydney Widell

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