Monday, October 1, 2007

Iron and Wine - Live at Town Hall, NYC 9/30/07 (featuring a review of this year's best album The Shepherd's Dog)

It's kinda late, so I'll be brief with this review, but don't let the brevity of this post short sell this performance in your mind. I've been a big fan of Austin-based Iron and Wine (anyone spotting a trend here?) for a while now, but this was my first time seeing them live -- needless to say, I was more than impressed.

Their current tour is in support of their brand new album, the phenomenal The Shepherd's Dog which just hit stores on Tuesday. I've only had a chance to listen to it a few times since I bought it, but from the moving opener "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," through the final tune "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," this album already has "instant classic" written all over it. I think it rivals Josh Ritter's newest album The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter in comparison, so that's saying something.

In short, it's perfection on plastic.

On to the show. I rarely see a show that I don't like because I usually will only spend my cash on someone that I know will be good live. However, I've never heard any reviews of Iron and Wine's live shows, so this was a little bit of a leap for me based solely on my appreciation of their studio work. I was actually expecting a toned down show since most of their work can be stripped down to Sam Beam's exceptional vocals and an acoustic guitar and still sound as sweet as ever. Surprisingly, eight - count 'em, eight - people walked on stage. I'll list what each of the eight did just to give you an oversight into how talented this group was:

1) Sam - acoustic/electric guitars; lead vocals

2) violin; vocals (I don't know who this woman is, but I have a major crush on her; and yes, of course she had red hair)

3) piano; electric guitar

4) upright bass; electric bass guitar

5) drums (this guy was amazing)

6) accordion; vibraphone; electric guitar

7) slide guitar; electric guitar


The eighth person in the band gets his own paragraph. This dude had what I'll call a "percussion pit." He sat behind two small tables with a cacophony of instruments that looked as if he were barricading himself against a horde of High School Musical fanatics. Here's a quick rundown of things I saw him play: 2 hollow wooden boxes (wood block style except much larger...think table sized), mini-xylophone, finger cymbals, bongos, snare drum, crash cymbal, 3 tambourines, 2 salt shakers, different shaped bowls that "pinged," a hand-held bell with no pin, a triangle wand (sounded like a triangle, but it was on the end of a wand, not dangling and he appeared to just hit his own free hand gently with it under the mic), one of those billy clubs with bells on it, and a steel drum. I know I missed more, but I couldn't watch him the whole night...

The slide guitar was a welcome touch on this night, as they played songs almost exclusively off the new album. I don't want to get into favorites because they were all pretty amazing in their own right, and my favorites from the album so far are premature. I will say I'm really happy I got to hear "Boy with a Coin" before I left. In fact, I'm pretty sure they played almost, if not everything off The Shepherd's Dog. The did play a couple of tracks not on the CD, such as "Jezebel" and "Sodom, South Georgia" that were beautiful, but on the whole, they featured their new stuff prominently. And for good reason.

My only complaint for the night was a one-song encore, but to be honest, it didn't matter. The show exceeded my expectations so much that I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Listen to the ENTIRE album at their myspace page!!! I'm hesitant to give RT's because of how amazing each song is (hint: listen to the whole album...or just go buy it!) but if you're going to be lazy, make sure you catch...oh Jesus, this is hard to narrow down..."Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," "Lovesong of the Buzzard," "Resurrection Fern," and "The Devil Never Sleeps." I'm listing those so that anyone listening for the first time will get a good overview of what to expect from Iron and Wine.

Side Note #1) NPR's very legit "All Song's Considered" has their show from last night in D.C. available to stream here. Haven't listened to it yet, but I guarantee it's awesome.

Side Note #2) I think I was/am supposed to live in Austin. Maybe my doppelganger lives there instead of me.

Side Note #3) Town Hall is a great place for a concert. Just ask Feist.

Side Note #4) The opening band was sweet. Arthur & Yu. I bought their CD after only hearing 3 songs (we got in a little later than I had hoped). Post forthcoming.

Side Note #5) When I went to name this my favorite album of the year, I realized that 2007 is really shaping up to be a ridiculous year for new releases. Our end of the year top 10 is going to be crowded. I expect blog-blood to be spilled as we are forced to hammer out our list come Dec. '07/Jan. '08 but I'm really looking forward to it.

so much for the short in t-minus 4 hours...gross...


sweet jane said...

SO glad that you got to this show...I got Devendra Banhart tickets for this weekend and couldn't do the double-hit.

Of course, now I'm incredibly jealous - I've seen them twice (once at McCarren Park Pool!!!) and it's been life-alteringly sweet on both occasions.

If you don't have In the Reins (CD with Calexico), you have to have it!

Annnnnd the lovely lady with the violin is Sam Beam's sister, Sarah.

Little Dynamite said...

i do have In the Reins, courtesy of our old pal Little Gun...amazing album...i actually listened to it last night while writing this post...

i'm going to propose to sarah beam...