For a little more than 90 minutes Friday night, Iron and Wine mastermind Sam Beam captivated a sold-out audience at House of Blues — not just with his words and voice, but with his dedication to redefining his music.
Accompanied by a 10-person band, including two female backing singers and a three-piece horn section, Iron and Wine re-imagined and reworked their songs, as Beam’s controlled baritone hummed in harmony with the eclectic mix of instrumentation.
Playing in support of the excellent Kiss Each Other Clean, released earlier this year, Iron and Wine turned their hushed, acoustic sound into a jazzy big band that filled House of Blues.
The new album definitely had something to do with that, as the ambitious record makes modest use of horns and electric guitar. In concert the configuration provided a platform to transform an older song like “Wolves” (from The Shepard’s Dog) into a lengthy jam that ended with the three-piece brass section wailing in unison.
Much of the night was spent highlighting Kiss Each Other Clean, as each song was arranged with more focus on the music than the words, while still somehow keeping Beam at the center of attention.
“Rabbit Will Run,” “Me and Lazarus,” and “Monkey’s Uptown” allowed Beam to show that his music is so much more than just the quiet lullabies that dominated his earliest work.
And when it came time to play some of those earlier songs, they too took on new forms. A medley of “House by the Sea,” “Woman King,” and “Fever Dream” toward the end of the set featured an almost New Orleans-zydeco vibe that permeated with funk and jazz, absent from the studio versions.
Through the entire night Beam was gracious and humble, thanking the crowd and even making some small talk with a few fans in the front. The audience rewarded him with patience and admiration, allowing Iron and Wine to truly play their songs and not just flatly regurgitate their studio sounds. —Aaron Mendelsohn
* For a full slideshow of the night's events, click here.