Hearing Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) sing feels a little like sitting on the back porch of a log cabin on a summer day as dusk falls, with a soft breeze blowing and a sweet thought dancing in and out of your head. And you’re probably in love. You also probably just finished a good book, and life feels satisfying and peaceful at that certain moment.
At least that’s what it felt like to me.
The simplicity of just a guitar and a man (with an incredible, unassuming voice) creates such a rich and pervasive sound it’s incomparable to any other musical performance. Combine that with the intimate atmosphere at the Paramount Theatre and the artist’s humble manner and easy humor, and you can believe you and Beam are good friends sitting on that porch together, watching the sun go down.
Beam opened with Sodom, South Georgia, an upbeat, yet simple tune from an older album, Our Endless Numbered Days. Despite the repeated and drawn-out phrase, “Papa died Sunday,” and lyrics that seem to reflect a somber theme, the song felt cheerful and homey. Even without the female background vocals that make the recorded version wonderful, leaving only Beam’s voice to carry the gentle cadence, this song became one of my new favorites – although I could say the same about almost every song he played in the short span of an hour.
Next was Woman King, a song that feels urgent and intense from the first note. With quick chords and an almost foreboding tone in the whispered lyrics, this song seemed to envelop the audience in its richness. Songs such as Upwards Over the Mountain reflected Beam’s recognizable guitar picking with high and low notes that ebbed and flowed, demonstrating the artist’s ability to weave sweet acoustic harmonies into hopeful ballads. The Sea and the Rhythm, another favorite for the imagery in its simple lyrics, deserves a mention as well.
Most of the audience was happy to hear Naked as We Came and Flightless Bird, American Mouth, two of Iron and Wine’s most well-known pieces. In a sensual rendition of Boy with a Coin, Beam had the audience humming along, which created a cool sound unique from the clapping tempo of the fast-paced original. Beam also performed a “new” song, tentatively titled Mary Anne, which was happy, reminiscent and reflective.
What left me walking out of the theatre in a dreamlike state, however, was Beam’s encore song, The Trapeze Swinger. The guitar notes seemed to swell and echo after each other, and bold yet soft lyrics ensured we would all “remember” Iron & Wine, as he mentioned in this concluding song.
My only complaint is each song seemed noticeably shorter than the original. The effect was similar to the feeling of ordering an orange juice at Denny’s on a morning you are particularly craving it and receiving a shot glass that barely quenches your thirst. Every song Beam perfomed was flawless, but we wished were allowed the pleasure of steeping ourselves in them for just a little while longer.
Despite this feeling, it was still one of the best concerts I have ever been to, and I’ve heard from many others who agreed.Â We all stumbled out of the Paramount with contented sighs on our lips, and Iron & Wine left Abilene a happier place.