Radio Free Silver Lake on July 3, 2013)
I try to see Sam Beam each time he swings through town with his musical project, Iron and Wine, which can vary from a solo performer with one accompanist to a regular rock band of five or six. I was still surprised to see thirteen
musicians stride on stage on Sunday night, June 23, 2013, at The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles to envelope a warm
and appreciative crowd in a bona fide "love-fest" that flooded the venue
with a soft glow. Thanks to Spaceland Productions for the photo above (other photos by me).
With his usual unassuming and
characteristic modesty he easily seduced the crowd even before he began
singing. His easy rapport with an audience always makes his shows seem
more like a soiree with a group of like-minded friends, no matter the
size of the venue. This was made clear again on Sunday night as the
between song boisterousness of the audience would quell once the music
began and one's attention would be riveted to the stage.
I've been wrapping my head around the new album, Ghost On Ghost,
for the past few weeks. At first I didn't quite know what to make of
the new direction he's taken into a kind of jazzy blues/lounge lizard
world, until repeated listenings left a bunch of the songs stuck in my
head. I began to realize that he is taking this very seriously, and the
display of orchestral range exhibited at The First Unitarian left no
doubt that he's made a wise choice.
Any reticence I may have felt about Ghost On Ghost
was swept away as they played a range of it's songs including "Low
Light Buddy Of Mine" and the soulful "Grass Widows" played with such
style and precision by his small orchestra. Another advantage of hearing
it live is that Sam Beam's voice has never been recorded to sound quite
as powerful as it is in person, with the bonus of seeing how he never
even breaks a sweat, his voice just pours out of him so naturally.
the band took a break, Sam performed a few solo songs and took
suggestions from a knowledgeable audience who surprised him with some of
their choices. He was joined by his string section for a gorgeous cover
of Postal Service's "Such Great Heights". He rounded out the 90
minute show with the full band, including a really special airing of
"Grace For Saints and Ramblers". For the encore he came out alone again
and launched into what may be my favorite of all his songs, the
heart-wrenching "Trapeze Swinger". The episodic and compelling song that seems to
go on forever, yet doesn't go on long enough.
This is the second show I've attended at The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
(left) and, while I wouldn't exactly call it a religious experience (I
don't possess the proper gene for that), I would describe it as
reverential. Like the Iron and Wine show at The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever a couple of years ago, this was the perfect marriage of artist and venue.