Iron & Wine Live at NYC's Bowery Ballroom

Nick Catucci

Iron &Wine
Bowery Ballroom
New York City

You've heard of the "Wall of Sound." How about the "ScreenDoor of Sound"? Sam Beam, Iron & Wine's 30-year-old frontbeard,makes music to mope to--tranquil, rustic near-ballads with lyrics thatcontemplate spreading the ashes of your spouse around the yard. Nowimagine a room full of people honoring these gossamer songs, in thrallto the chilly breezes that waft through them; it's not exactlyWoodstock '99. The closest analogy would be a Quaker meeting, where thefaithful worship in silence until the spirit moves someone to stand andshare. But since Beam's subject matter--fear of death, existentialloneliness, the desire to look like a lumberjack--seems to demandhushed contemplation, the faithful showed their devotion by shootingdirty looks at anyone who dared make conversation.

Beam andhis four-person band played the songs the way they sound onrecord--acoustic guitar, light drumming, almost imperceptible backingvocals from Beam's little sister Sarah; there were few flourishes,distractions, or asides (sample stage patter: "It sure is quiet outthere"). The bulk of the set drew from Our Endless Numbered Days,the band's second full-length. The obliquely antiwar "On Your Wings"approached rockin', and "Naked as We Came"--the one about spreadingashes--was almost perky, as Sam's velvety melancholy cradled Sarah'scoo. It was only when Beam strummed by himself--as he did on theforlorn "Call Your Boys"--that the spell broke. After all, it onlytakes a few holes to ruin a screen door.

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