“So what’s this Iron & Wine lot like then?”
“Oh, it’s quite folky. He sang that song from that advert.”
Hearing this conversation bellow from the people standing to my right was unexpected considering tickets were being exchanged on Ebay for the price of a small ransom. Tonight marks Iron and Wine’s (or Sam Beam to his mum) return for his third record, Shepherd’s Dog, in the intimate surroundings of the criminally soon to be defunct Spitz.
Beam shuffles on to the tiny stage displaying an even more impressive beard then when he last graced these shores two years ago, though the less said of any Justin Lee Collins comparisons the better.
He appears relaxed, waiting patiently whilst the sound man decides to do his job and lower the PA for him to begin, starting one of the most stunning hours of live music this reviewer has experienced all year. Without his band and just an acoustic guitar to accompany him, his effortless guitar work was an utter joy to watch.
Flightless Bird, American Mouth washes over the crowd in a wave of elation while a new song repeats the refrain of “Everybody’s bitching there’s nothing on the radio” for several minutes before Beam jokes that said song was played during a radio interview some days previously. The humour is somewhat lost on the audience, being either a case of the dim-witted or being far too absorbed in disbelief at what they are witnessing.
What is most noticeable is his power to make watching one man so utterly compelling and gleaming. Whereas others have a tendency to rely on gimmick or shtick to win an audience over (Sufjan Stevens and Devendra Banhart spring to mind here, as excellent as they both are), Beam’s unforced nature onstage is lacking in contemporary music, not to mention the ability to shut a London audience up for more than five minutes.
Far too soon it’s all over, as Beam runs off with a quick goodbye and nothing in the way of an encore. But this is more than sufficient, and with the plans for a gastro pub looming, this would be the last hurrah at the Spitz for many attendees. There’s certainly far worse ways to have spent it than with the man from ‘that advert.’