A Slice of Fried Gold

Iron and Wine in Anchorage

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sam Beam: Guitar Hero

This past Friday, my mom, sister and I attended a sold out concert at UAA featuring none other than Iron & Wine. For those that do not know, Iron & Wine is effectively one man - Samuel Beam. Mr. Beam is a crafter of intimate indie folk music, and is quite renowned for his high level of talent in that field. While I appreciate his music and recognize his talent, I'm not crazy about him overall because I find his style of music to be quite boring. So Mr. Beam, it's not you, it's me.

Regardless, given that Alaska so rarely gets high quality shows and that this was assuredly going to be one that was huge in Anchorage's cultural zeitgeist for some time, I had to go. Predictably, I'm quite glad I ended up going as the show overall was a very good one, with both Beam and his opener Eric Johnson (from Sub Pop's Fruit Bats) performing quite well with just their voices and acoustic guitars (as neither artist's band joined them on this trip).

Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats

Johnson kicked things off with a musically strong set featuring impressive lyrical imagery. However, one thing he lacked was any sort of rapport with the audience, or even an attempt at creating one. Perhaps he felt oddly about trying to interact as the opener, but I feel that his set suffered due to that lack of interaction (he should have taken a cue from Dawn Landes, whose pervasive cuteness was a highlight of the Josh Ritter show from earlier this year).

His performance was very good though, as his brand of indie folk was charming and relaxing simultaneously. His guitar work was filled with very intricate finger picking and his voice was quite soothing overall. Even with the extreme lack of interaction with the audience, his music was engaging enough to be a more than capable opener.

Sam Beam: Master Guitar Tuner

Beam more than made up for it, as he was not just a stellar performer but a seasoned entertainer inbetween songs. His stories varied from ones about "churchy colleges" to discussing Santa's Little Helper pizza (the audience ate up this Moose's Tooth reference), and was showered by adoration after and during every song. Kicking off his set with his cover of "Such Great Heights" by Postal Service (and encouraging the audience to singalong before hand as well) and following it up with his track "Woman King" off the Woman King EP was a fantastic decision, as those are two of his most well known songs and immediately had the audience engaged. The only real disappointment was that he did not play my mom's favorite track "Jezebel", although she still yelled for it inbetween songs (I choose to think Beam was simply ignoring her).

So even from someone who is not a huge fan of his music, I came away impressed. This is a man who has a firm grasp on his identity as a performer and works extremely well with intimdate audiences. Plus he is freaking hilarious. Highly recommended if he comes to your area, even if you are not a huge fan of his music.


MOM said...

Well, he should have played it!

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