Maybe it was the soothing lighting, or perhaps it was the incredibly soft and quiet way in which Samuel Beam captivated the crowd with his perfect pitch and mesmerizing tunes; whatever it was, it worked.
The Newport Music Hall on High Street, across from the Ohio State University campus, was the quietest anyone had ever heard it during a show at this local venue favorite, as show-goers were re-educated on the art of Listening.
Oh sure, there were a few people in attendance who didn’t seem to get that there was a magical performance happening, and these people talked right through the show, apparently unable to leave the fast paced hubbub of the outside world on the other side of the Newport’s black wooden doors.
Even they couldn’t dispel the magic that was being woven by Sam and his band of performers. The set list included new work from the recently released Woman King album (February, 2004), as well as crowd favorites from previous albums “The Creek Drank The Cradle” and “Our Endless Numbered Days.”
The majority of Beam’s setlist consisted of quietly performed songs, but there were at least three instances in which Beam and his accompaniment rocked the house with uncharacteristic fervor.
It was during these brief times that Beam’s music took on a whole new kind of intensity; seriously, I’ve never heard someone rock out so quietly and intensely as did Iron and Wine on this night.
Beam’s assortment of guitars added to the organic feel of the show; at some times during the night, when he was playing a gorgeous hollow-body guitar, I caught a faint and pleasant echo of Chris Isaak, another quietly rocking musical gentleman.
The live experience of Iron and Wine’s “Upward Over The Mountain” was chill-inducing, and the audience could hardly hold back their appreciation as it was being performed.
Several times throughout their performance, an exuberant member of the audience would whoop or whistle, at times eliciting a soft smile from Mr. Beam as he performed.
At one point during the Iron and Wine encore performance (thank you for that, Iron and Wine!) the crowd was so happy to have one more taste of this break from the noise and confusion of their daily lives, that some managed to break through Beam’s composure and mid-song on the encore performance of “Trapeze Swinger” he stopped and addressed the crowd with a smile and some softly spoken words, before picking up his song again where he left off.
Don’t ask what he actually said, because I couldn’t quite catch it thanks to “Yaptastic” – er, I mean the girl standing behind me who couldn’t seem to shut up through most of the performance – though it sounded a bit like a brief and amused agreement with someone from stage left’s feelings about a particular lyric.
I can tell you that seeing Beam smile is enough to make you smile, yourself. Throughout the show, his uber-relaxed and soothing demeanor was a much needed vacation from the stresses of life “out there” beyond the doors of the Newport Music Hall.
It felt as though time had ceased its grind, and that we could all live inside the music for just a little while longer – a priceless feeling to have at a concert!
Iron and Wine’s ability to transport listeners to that quiet and contemplative place is one of their strengths, to be sure. Make every effort to catch one of their shows this summer.
They’ll be hitting several locations on the East coast; check their website for venues and dates. Those of you who enjoy Yahoo! LAUNCHcast Radio can catch Iron and Wine songs on the Cool As Folk station.