Iron & Wine – Knitting Factory (Los Angeles, CA)
Iron And Wine’s 2002 debut album, The Creek Drank The Cradle, is no longer great. It used to be great, in a small, Southern-Gothic-meets-Nick Drake sort of way, but that is just not the case anymore. Very good? Indeed. Great? Sorry.
The album was officially downgraded about 20 minutes into this show, during a reading of one of the disc’s key tracks, “Bird Stealing Bread”. The recorded version, like all of the album, is a lo-fi creation hatched entirely by principal member Sam Beam in his Miami, Florida, home. It’s tiny, hissy, and somewhat mysterious as a result. But here, acoustic guitarist Beam guided a backing band that included an acoustic slide player, a backing vocalist and two drummers through the gorgeous shuffle. Then the break came, and a passage on the recorded version that is a nice, if somewhat unspectacular, acoustic-guitar loop was retold with vibes round and shiny. Everything swelled and shimmered, and there was Iron And Wine, in three-dimensional Technicolor. Whoa.
In fact, the entirety of Iron And Wine’s set was nothing short of gorgeous, moody, salvation. Songs were gentle and breathtaking, songs were unexpectedly muscular and dizzying. And they all felt as if they just fell out of the sky, perfectly intact. Which is why the record is now a disappointment: The vision has grown beyond it. You know the songs can sound better.
The good news is that Iron And Wine is just getting started. Beam and company played a handful of new songs that suggest a wider scope. A couple stunned the hushed crowd with timeless folk simplicity; others offered greater reach, including one rambunctious song that, as Beam said, explained the need for two drummers onstage. May the colors keep developing.