Just from my singe vantage point last Thursday, I watched two people faint or being led out after swooning from the heat. Including a guy. I didn’t know guys did that. Thousands packed the free downtown venue to see Sam Beam and opener Okkervil River which just made the 95 degree day that much hotter.
Okkervil River, a band that seems to think it is a lot more clever than I do, really only gelled on a couple of numbers. Largely eschewing last year’s The Stand Ins, the band finally seemed to hit their stride on “John Allyn Smith Sails” and “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” from The Stage Names. Plenty of other numbers had Will Sheff jumping and exhorting the crowd to clap with the manufactured energy of a Bruce Springsteen Superbowl halftime show.
Compare those antics with the redoubtable stage presence of Sam Beam, who consumed the crowd the moment he took the stage with nothing more than a guitar. Let me say that this was a bit of a letdown since the show was promoted as Iron & Wine, which implies his touring band. I hoped to hear some of the added instumentation of his more recent albums, if not the brass from the Calexico collaboration.
Nevertheless he did not disappoint.
Despite his clear annoyance (and mine) at the half dozen beach balls being bounced around the audience and frequently onto stage, Beam rolled through about 15 songs with a gentle stage banter and mild humor. He looks and acts like Santa Claus on Lexapro.
It seems the entire Iron and Wine canon was represented with the exception of 2003’s The Sea and the Rhythmn EP. Beam lead off…I don’t know why this surprises me but it does…with his cover of the Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” Then he walked through several of his own greats like “Woman King” from the EP by the same name, “Sunset Soon Forgotten” from Our Endless Numbered Days, and “Upward Over the Mountain” off of The Creek Drank the Cradle, his original full-length on Subpop.
Then came a couple of Shepherd’s Dog songs, “The Devil Never Sleeps” and “Peace Beneath the City,” although I may have been delirious from the heat because I don’t remember either one. He also concluded the 1.5 hour long set with “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” before a brief encore.
Beam’s voice gets the majority of the attention and it really is a sound to behold. But I was equally taken by his playing skills that night, being able to watch him at length for the first time.
I won’t gripe about free concerts again here but it was a terribly boorish crowd. Actually I guess I did just gripe but only briefly. This may be my last free show. I would rather drop $20 on a band that other music lovers have sacrificed to see. And Iron & Wine is definitely a band to see in a quieter setting.
This Thursday is Salt Lake’s last Twilight Concert.
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears could be a wild finish to the summer. They ride the same psych-creole train as King Khan and His Shrines. In fact it may be just enough lunacy to help you forget the crowd!