“We’re gonna play some old stuff, some new stuff, and some stuff in between”, Sam Beam calmly announced to the attentive audience as he took to the stage accompanied by his new band. He definitely kept to his word – Iron and Wine delivered a moving performance at the stunning Birmingham Town Hall – adding new sounds to old songs and showcasing selected tracks from their new album ‘Kiss Each Other Clean’.
The band started off, surprisingly, with a funky rendition of ‘Boy with a Coin’. At once, I could tell it was going to be an amazing show; Sam’s beautiful, raw voice was heightened by the full sound of the new band. A few songs later a beat started, indicating that the next song was going to be an acoustic one, prompting the audience to clap along as soon as they realised this was the prelude to ‘Freedom Hangs Like Heaven’. The keyboards joined in, and gradually more instrumental layers were added until the song ended with a big sound integrating the entire band. ‘House by the Sea’ served as a showcase for the talented sax player, who gave an incredible solo towards the end of the song. Another old favourite – ‘Sea and the Rhythm’ – was skilfully transformed into a slower version with new sounds, most notably high-octave piano notes to polish the song off.
The most memorable part of the night was the extended performance of ‘Wolves’, which included a beautiful instrumental bridge laden with a storm of different arrangements incorporating instrument from saxophone, to flute, to synthesizers. For the encore, Sam came back on stage accompanied by only a couple of the band members, for a lovely performance of ‘Naked as we Came’. The acoustic version of this old favourite was definitely reminiscent of the band’s older style, and was much appreciated by the audience.
I was lucky enough to speak with Sam before the performance, and he explained a few things about the new album. Mostly, he just wanted to experiment with some new sounds and add some groove to his signature poetic lyrics. “I don’t like the idea of doing the same thing over and over, so you try to push yourself in slightly different ways,” he told me. I asked if he wanted to be able to dance to some of his own music, to which he replied, “yeah, definitely”.
All in all, Iron and Wine delivered a spectacular performance. Sam maintained his signature style; he sang in a therapeutic way evoking meaning in each and every word and was accompanied by a merry band of extremely talented musicians. It could not have gone wrong.