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Dressed to Impress

October 14th, 2011

Iron & Wine – Terminal 5 – October 13, 2011


When Sam Beam (d.b.a. Iron & Wine) came on the scene, his music was the lo-fi comfort of well-worn jeans and a T-shirt, almost literally a guy in his basement with an acoustic guitar. With each new album and tour, the outfit has become more and more elaborate so that last night at Terminal 5, when Iron & Wine took the stage, the musical equivalent of a sharp-dressed man, gussied up from head to toe in the finest duds and a $300 haircut to match. No less than 12 musicians filled the stage with a full horn section and three backup singers, giving the band more of a Saturday-night soul-revue feel than a folk-rock ensemble.

Opening with “Rabbit Will Run” off this year’s Kiss Each Other Clean, it was clear that every sound and detail had been meticulously placed. Flutes, horns, guitar and vocals all perfectly assembled, the music came off as both heavy and light at the same time. Going through the newer material, the band hinted at gospel, blues, funk and rock, with the mellow, soft side of Iron & Wine being the exception. At times, it seemed that Beam himself was superfluous to all that surrounded him.

But, contrary to what they say, the clothes don’t make the man; the man makes the man. Iron & Wine still is Sam Beam, whether in Armani or in Levi’s, as a brilliant stretch of older tunes near the end of the set left no doubt. Beam shined on a funked-up “Boy with a Coin,” “Peace Beneath the City” and a drawn-out spacey “Woman King” that went into a slow-burn baritone-sax solo. Not surprisingly, it was a superlative “Naked as We Came” with Beam, a mandolin and some support from his singers that was the highlight of the show. It was just Iron & Wine—the lyrics, the voice, the delicate melody, the coziest pair of jeans in the closet. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Alexis Maindrault | www.rockinpix.com