CONCERT REVIEW Mellow, folksy, hypnotic

Iron and Wine’s subtleness and calmness was the perfect way to unwind before a busy week

Iron and Wine

House of Blues

April 19, 2011

The Low Anthem. Iron and Wine. This was quite the contrast to the other concerts I attended over this long weekend. Think Random Hall versus Baker — that’s how radically different Iron and Wine is from both the metal/hardcore festival I attended on Saturday and the electro-reggae Major Lazer concert I attended on Sunday at Wellesley. Tuesday night was a prelude to getting focused again, musically pre-gaming for the days ahead, prepping for the return from the four-day weekend. The concert whispered to me, telling me that this was the final moment of relaxation before I had to head back to the slave camp that had already consumed some of my friends for the whole long weekend.

I left for the concert a bit later than I had anticipated, so I only caught about half the performance of The Low Anthem, who was the opener for Iron and Wine. This folk quartet hails from Providence, R.I. They are characterized by an array of multi-instrumentalists playing sweet and mellow tunes. They did a great job opening for Iron and Wine by creating a plush setting.

Being folk/folk rock, Iron and Wine — the stage name of Sam Beam — is perfect for people who want to relax to calm melodies. That’s exactly what the audience did for the one-and-a-half hours that he performed. I always identify Beam by his signature beard and long hair, but I was surprised by how relatively neat and trim he was on Tuesday. His beard was conservative (compared to how puffy it had previously been), his hair was short, and he had an overall fresh appearance. I was quite taken aback and did not recognize him instantly. Thankfully, his musical talent is independent of his appearance, and as the concert progressed, I grew to, perhaps, prefer the new Sam Beam to the old one.

Iron and Wine opened with “Boy with a Coin,” one of his lesser-known, older songs. It was a highly melancholy song but established the mood for the rest of the night. Other songs that are appropriately titled, such as “God Made the Automobile,” “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven,” and “Big Burned Hand,” helped to subtly add more colors of contemplation. It helped that I had listened to Iron and Wine’s newest album a few times before the concert, so I was familiar with many of the songs that he played. In the past I had listened to Iron and Wine’s older works, but many of the songs he performed were indeed new to me.

Beam directly interacted with the audience — answering questions and making light chatter between songs. As the concert progressed, I stood there, eyes closed, in a half-trance, not sure if I was asleep or awake. Iron and Wine’s folksy voice, the two female background vocalists, and the light instrumentation diffused serenity into the air. It was so relaxing, but in a completely different way than the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Iron and Wine is the way to start your week.