concert reviews

Iron and Wine's Quiet Power
Iron and Wine at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Saturday 29 September 2007

Iron and Wine's Sam Beam didn't look like much of a rock star on Saturday night at a sold-out 9:30 club. His long, tousled hair and full beard gave him the air of a recluse, and the slight awkwardness with which he addressed the crowd added to that aloofness. With his hushed voice and understated demeanor, Beam's articulately crafted folk-rock songs would ordinarily be better suited to a more intimate setting than the cavernous 9:30.

Backed by a seven-piece band, though, Beam's songs filled the space beautifully, from the wailing pedal steel at the end of "White Tooth Man" to the accordion and upright bass that intertwined on the earnest "Sodom, South Georgia." Beam doesn't have the strongest voice, but its whispered quality was effective. His breathy vocals complemented the trancelike, pulsing repetitions of "Peace Beneath the City" and "House by the Sea." He sang the opening verses of "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" backed solely by sparse keyboard chords, and his delicate falsetto -- joined by his sister Sarah's soft harmonies -- perfectly captured the frailty of the song's subject.

The band rotated instruments to create a full sound for most of the 90-minute set, but Beam closed the evening with a nod to the sparseness of his early recordings. With a solo performance of "Naked as We Came," he commanded the motionless attention of the entire room, securing the intimacy that his songs so deserve.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 2 October 2007; Page C03
.: Selected discography: The Shepherd's Dog (Iron and Wine, 2007); In the Reins (Iron and Wine and Calexico, 2005); Woman King (Iron and Wine, 2005); Our Endless Numbered Days (Iron and Wine, 2004); The Sea & the Rhythm (Iron and Wine, 2003); The Creek Drank the Cradle (Iron and Wine, 2002).