Iron & Wine in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on 29th May 2013
The name Iron & Wine evokes certain images. You think iron you think metal you think loud guitars, but then wine doesn’t quite adapt itself to this idea. This minor issue resolves itself when the strings appear on the Olympia stage and the organist and drummer take their places, and when the woodwinds and the backup singers approach the microphones and the bass player stands in position. It is a full-bodied sound that Mr Samuel Beam is going for; like the taste of a good red wine and the iron is a good steak dinner… or something like that. But when they open the gig with the cocktail-soul sound of New Mexico’s No Breeze the name makes sense and you feel empty-handed without that glass of wine.
First up on that great big stage is John Smith with his acoustic guitar and his smooth throaty voice that fills the auditorium. He plays some very peaceful tunes that start to lull the crowd into a very relaxed state; though at one point, as he finishes a song, he strikes the low string with such force that it sounds like a gunshot that knocks half the room out of their seats. He calmly messes with the crowd, seemingly finishing a song then waiting for the applause before continuing. His songs are great too, Salty & Sweet and There Is A Stone being ones particularly worth listening to again.
The jazzy rhythms of Beam’s band brings the room to some other place, through different landscapes like the rainy city piano that emerges partway through Grass Widows or the bright green hilltops of Godless Brother In Love. The gig at this point is enjoyable and pleasant, a great example of wonderful musicianship and singing and your attention drifts in and out like with background music on a sunny day.
When the band goes away Beam takes requests from the crowd and does a number of songs on his acoustic guitar, including a fine rendition of the questionably named Naked As We Came. This whole section of the evening is a short but welcome calm at the midway point and it changes the entire aspect of the gig. When the full band makes its return it lifts the level high above where it was before, starting with the groovy Motown-esque Grace For Saints And Ramblers and it is simply not comfortable to be seated anymore.
Caught In The Briars goes somewhere else again, starting off as this great sunny and colourful sound that falls off into a wonderful anarchic mess just when it seems to have run its course. All the instruments veer off in their own directions and the sound of a hint of melody from one of the saxes rising above the mess is incredibly satisfying to hear. This goes on and on until you can hardly imagine anyone being able to take charge of the situation and return structure, but then the drummer beats out a steady rhythm and the music comes back and the song sounds about four times better than it did before that manic break.
The rest of the gig is charmed after this moment with everything sounding perfect and the ever-endearing sounds of the organ garnishing every song it pops up on. A fantastic and hypnotic Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me caps the official set while a very sombre solo performance of Flightless Bird, American Mouth is the encore that gently and pleasantly guides the room out of their seats and back onto the street.
Iron & Wine Photo Gallery