Iron & Wine hypnotizes Joy Theater with indie charm


Josh Axelrod | Senior Staff Photographer

Sam Beam fronts Iron & Wine as the lead singer-songwriter. The musician joked with the audience throughout the concert.

With floating clouds above his head, filling an otherwise plain backdrop, Sam Beam plays his guitar and sings his songs. His melodies are sweet, and his voice is full. The Joy Theater floats.

Beam, the Iron & Wine frontman, backed by a skillful band, took the Joy stage this past Saturday night. The crowd was quiet yet enthusiastic, relishing the treat of the quirky indie folksman.

“You guys are so well behaved,” Beam said, in between songs. “I’m so proud of you.”

The musician teased audience members all night, mocking them for their quietness and ironically shushing them before each song.

In fact, the audience was not quiet, woohoo-ing and yee-haw-ing following each song. But the second Beam strummed a chord, silence fell over the group, a crowd of clear fans reveling in awe of the performance.

When listening to his albums, Iron & Wine can easily be mistaken for sleepy rock — comforting music that’s great for bedtime and dangerous to listen to while driving. Yet, Beam’s energetic live performance could not stray further from his recorded lullabies.

Surveying his entire discography, Beam soared across an emotional spectrum from belting intensely to singing in falsetto goofily. His powerful lyrics and beautifully resonant voice made for a stunning live performance.

Joined by the finest of musicians, Beam’s sound was full and innovative. He was backed by a cello, keyboards, drums, bass and various other funky percussive instruments. The cellist, Teddy Rankin Parker, was especially fantastic, adding verve to the already-wacky instrumentation.

At one point the songs started to blend into one another, but it was a happy blend. Beam broke up this progression with an intense finish, playing “Last Night” and “Southern Anthem.” The clouds strobed colored lights as the cello and bass went wild with rhythmic flair.

Beam’s deeply emotional and often affecting lyrics should not disguise his truly goofy personality. The musician joked with the audience all night, perfectly comfortable on stage. After particularly bleak songs, Beam would quip, “I’m so intense” or “That’s the feel good hit of the year.”

John Moreland opened the night with a fantastic set of folksy Americana. The heavyset guitarist strummed beautifully, emulating Bruce Springsteen with his coarse voice.

Unsurprisingly, Iron & Wine came back out for an encore, with the female musicians wearing fake beards. After noticing the audience’s reactions, Beam said, “What? Just a couple of dudes playing some music.”

Yet the 90 minutes of resonant melodies was much more than that. With an electricity circulating through the room as the audience fell under Beam and his band’s spell, the entire room felt a sense of cleansing.

It was music that heals the soul.