Sam Beam is one of those rare talents who sounds better live than recorded, and whose songs have the ability to move a theater full of people to tears. Known professionally as Iron & Wine, Beam’s music has been a staple in folk, indie, and singer-songwriter for over 15 years. His shows go on your bucket list. His use of imaginative, cryptic, and personal lyrics coupled with intricate fingerpicking and meaningful percussion makes his sound immediately recognizable. His modest and gentle demeanor onstage add to the unsuspecting wealth of talent beneath the surface.
Coming off the release of 2018’s Weed Garden, I expected this tour to be a celebration of a new chapter in his discography. Instead, Beam handpicked his favorite songs off of nearly all of his albums. It was just a celebration of Iron & Wine, and seeing as this was my first time at one of his concerts, it was perfect.
When the lights dimmed, the band took the Keswick Theater stage one by one to play a soft introduction before Beam crept onstage, almost as if waiting to be invited. He was greeted with applause and in the first moment he opened his mouth to sing “Winter Prayers,” my breath caught. I hadn’t expected him to sound that good. His voice is truly beautiful, quiet and earnest, full of honest and real emotion. It’s difficult not to be captivated. I couldn’t look away for the entire hour he sang to us.
The stage was decorated simply, with a sheet background that played with changing lights, and large cotton-ball clouds hung from the ceiling above the band, perhaps a nod to Beam’s soothing, dream-like voice and hypnotic storytelling lyrics. Beam was really the focal point, though, but he graciously introduced his whole band, without which the performance truly wouldn’t have been possible.
Notable moments in the setlist included “Naked as We Came,” which he played alone, the Flaming Lips’ “Waitin’ for a Superman,” and “Boy With a Coin.” However, truly the most pivotal moment for me was nine-minute ballad, “The Trapeze Swinger.” He could have ended the whole show after this song and I would have been overjoyed. He could have only played this song and I would have thanked him. There are honestly few songs that really get me, but this one does. It’s the story behind the lyrics and the methodic strumming and the moment where the band took the last two verses to sing without any instruments. It was my first time hearing this one live, and I cried. It was impossible not to.
I think that’s the ultimate testament to whether or not an artist has done their job. If you left feeling something, they won. You got what you paid for. Iron & Wine is incredibly good at this job.
I urge you to try and see Sam Beam and Iron & Wine if you ever can. No matter what he chooses to play, you’ll leave with a heart full of longing. He’s an honest talent and I hope he sticks around for a long, long time. The next stop on his tour is Norfolk, Virginia, and it only heads south from here. You can stream his newest release, Weed Garden everywhere now.