Dressed to impress, Iron and Wine charmed a sold-out Union Transfer crowd (photos, review, setlist)

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All photos by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

It was quite the elegant affair at Union Transfer last night, and everyone and their mother was there (literally). Folksinger Sam Beam took the stage in a suit with slicked-back hair, followed by his band of 13 (yes, 13) who were all dressed to the nines. Backup singers in long black dresses, the horn section in dapper jackets – everyone looked ready to impress. Over the course of the 100 minute set, Iron & Wine played selections from more than 10 years of music to a very eager, if fickle, sold-out crowd.

Starting the show on an upbeat note, Iron & Wine’s horn section do-wopped and sashayed through the “The Desert Babbler” from April’s release, Ghost On Ghost. While older fans of Iron & Wine have brushed off the band’s more recent releases in favor of the beautiful melancholy that is Sam Beam’s solo work, it could not be denied that the group onstage was having a great time. The crowd, however, was reluctant to warm up until a few songs in.

Trumpet and saxophone solos abound, Iron & Wine dipped into tracks from 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog and 2009’s Around The Well before the band faded into the background and Sam Beam returned to his solo roots. “We’re gonna do a little Iron & Wine, buffet style,” Beam said. “What do you guys want to hear?” A dozen different songs were shouted at once. The one that stood out?

“Freebird!” Oy.

“Sometimes you get what you ask for,” Beam snickered as his handsome voice transformed the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit into something unheard of.

Never expecting to hear it played, longtime fans were aghast when Beam performed “Sea and The Rhythm” from his 2003 EP of the same name. Following “Woman King” and “Resurrection Fern,” the crowd sang every word to The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” after Beam encouraged a sing-a-long. Those who trudged through adolescence to this track sang louder with each lyric.

The band was brought back onstage, but not before Beam called the crowd out for not dancing. “It’s okay. You can do it. You can dance. Nothing stops them,” he said jokingly, referring to the side-stepping horn section. The rest of the set pulled a better level of energy from the crowd, who were on a natural high from Beam’s “you-call-its” solo intermission. The band zoomed through the next eight songs until their closer, “Baby Center Stage,” also the closing track on “Ghost On Ghost.” Sadly, only one track was played from 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days, which put Beam on the Pitchfork map back in the day.

Gracious and happy, Beam came out for a one-song encore, pleasing diehards once again with “Upward Over the Mountain” from his 2002 debut, The Creek Drank The Cradle. He gave hope to a thousand adoring fans last night – 13-piece band or not, the man knows how to get back to his elegant, handsome roots. Beam, bring your Iron & Wine buffet back to Philadelphia soon.

Setlist
The Desert Babbler
Carousel
Kingdom of the Animals
Low Light Buddy of Mine
Tree By the River
Belated Promise Ring
Grass Widows
Sixteen, Maybe Less
Free Bird tease (solo)
The Sea and the Rhythm (solo)
Woman King (solo)
Resurrection Fern (solo)
Such Great Heights (Postal Service cover, solo)
Caught in the Briars
Sundown (Back in the Briars)
Jezebel
Grace for Saints and Ramblers
Passing Afternoon
Singers and the Endless Song
Lean Into the Light
Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me
Baby Center Stage

Encore
Upward Over the Mountain (solo)

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