Every July for the last five years, Sam Beam of Iron & Wine has hosted a benefit show at Austin’s Paramount Theatre, with proceeds aiding Midwives Alliance of North America and Bumi Sehat Foundation International. After attending last year’s concert, I recapped the show and expressed my excitement to see the next one. And that I did.
I’ve seen Iron & Wine many times in various forms, but my favorite is when Sam Beam takes the stage alone with an acoustic guitar. It allows for unique versions of new songs and old favorites. It’s also the perfect environment for Sam to truly engage with the audience. This is really what keeps me coming back. I love the casual, humorous rapport he maintains with fans. He tells rambling stories about song meanings and experiences. He encourages feedback and questions, chuckling when the crowd gets a little too excited. A memorable retort was after someone yelled “you rock!” Sam’s self-aware reply was “yeah, in a sleepy, subdued way.”
The setlist (which can be viewed here) pulled from Iron & Wine’s entire discography and included a brand new song entitled “Waves of Galveston.” My favorites of the night were “Lovers’ Revolution” from the latest album Ghost on Ghost as well as “Monkeys Uptown” and “Big Burned Hand” from the beloved (by me) album Kiss Each Other Clean. Songs like “Tree By The River” and “Resurrection Fern” had the crowd whooping and hollering their appreciation. The set ended with a beautiful rendition of “The Trapeze Swinger.” The majority of the crowd started to make their way out of the theater after the song, but I knew it wasn’t over yet. When Sam Beam returned to the stage he launched into a version of “Freebird,” poking fun of those screaming requests all night. The final song of the night was “Passing Afternoon” from 2004’s Our Endless Numbered Days for a fan who traveled to see the show for her 20th birthday.
Several times during the night, Sam struggled to remember how a song started or bits of lyrics. He laughed and exclaimed that when he started out 10 years ago he was so excited about making a living out of writing music. These days he realizes that “now I have to remember all these damn songs!” One of the things that makes the Paramount performances special is that it’s a casual show with an unplanned set list, allowing for fans to shout out requests. And boy did they shout them…repeatedly…and loudly. He attempted many of the requests, even if he hadn’t played the songs in years (hence the struggle to remember). He told us “I want you know I’m being brave tonight…it’s cause I love you that I don’t mind making an ass out of myself.”
It was Iron & Wine’s last show as an Austin-based band, as Sam Beam and his family are making the trek back to the East Coast next month. He alluded that the move might end this annual tradition, but I certainly hope not.
– Submitted by Jessica Reed, Social Media