May 7, 2010

Iron to gold, water to wine

Iron & Wine - Paramount Theater - May 4, 2010

Tuesday night I sat in Charlottesville's historic Paramount Theater, listening to a solo Sam Beam show, feeling a million miles away from where I'd been just hours earlier and home all at the same time.  Sure, travelling from DC to the charming college city post-work, mid-week, to see a concert may have seemed like a crazy idea in theory (and, while on the way back home lost on a country road), but in practice, it was pure gold.

The evening began with a sleepy solo set from Brazos/Martin from Brazos, a singer-songwriter from Austin, who my co-pilot so aptly described as a cross between Seth Myer and Andrew Byrd, without the wit or comparable talent (my addition).  Personally, he reminded me of Benjy Ferree without the surprise factor (the surprise being that such a nice voice comes out of a weird dude; "Brazos" is fairly pretty).  Despite the slight sweetness of his vox, it felt like watching a spoof of a show.  Long meandering songs with no structure or focus.  Some too closely inspired by subject matter (a song about hail? one out of the Mirah bug book).  Little to no connection between music and lyrics.  And really, I am kind of over the Brooklyn/Austin connotation.  You just said you grew up in South Carolina, man--own it.

After a brief break, Sam Beam came onstage to a sparse set-up: two guitars, a stool and two mics.  And what he churned out was perfectly intimate and engaging.  He debuted two new songs: Mary Anne and Half Moon, videos of which are getting loads of play online (see below), and threw in a vampire joke re: Half Moon for good measure.  Both songs cover new territory without alienating the tried and true: Mary Anne features a somewhat uncharacteristic loopy vocal ooo-ing, while Half Moon really stretches his range.

He returned to some old stand-bys too, as promised, with Naked as We Came and Sodom South Georgia, and stunned the crowd with an acapella version of Flightless Bird (or at least me, how lovely!).  The encore appropriately featured Prison on Route 41, a metaphoric thanks and goodbye to Virginia.  All this wonderful music, though admittedly a short set at about 1:15, peppered with colorful commentary from the usually silent singer.

Sam Beam embodies perfection in a singer-songwriter: he's what men want to be and women want to have.  It's easy to find yourself in his lyrics, emotionally... it's all about interpreting the metaphor.  Whether or not that's intentional, or genius, is also up to your interpretation.

The Trapeze Swinger
He Lays in the Reins
Woman King
Upward Over the Mountain
Half Moon
Mary Anne
Free Bird (first verse)
Sodom South Georgia
Naked as we Came
Sea and the Rhythm
Boy With a Coin
Flightless Bird

Prison on Route 41


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