It is never the best start to a gig when the man everyone has come to see appears on stage and announces, “I'm nursing a cold so I'll do my best.”

For a man under the weather, Sam Beam was decidedly chirpy though, especially for a man whose stock in trade is often wistful maudlin musing. He's even good natured enough to chuckle and note “I thought only people in America thought that was funny” when someone inevitably requests 'Freebird'.

Tonight's show is more along the lines of his recent output, with a fuller band sound replacing the frail early creations from his 2002 'The Creek Drank the Cradle' début album.

The Roundhouse is also a significantly less intimate location than some of his previous stops in the nation's capital. This newer, larger sound fills the cavernous venue effectively, but also wipes out much of the delicate nuance and broody charm of much of Iron and Wine's back catalogue. It's surely telling that Beam even jokes he is slightly surprised that no one this time asks him to “lose the band”.

When the flute and clarinet float in and a more delicate approach prevails Iron and Wine show they can easily pull off a lighter approach. But frequently a prominent saxophone and frequent instrumental digressions take this lurching towards AOR territory. And as the gig progresses Beam's cold-weakened voice is progressively more lost in the music.

The crowd is in the main good-naturedly receptive to the new approach, but the biggest cheers of the night – and the only songs that really grab the focus of the chatterers at the bars at the back – are his older numbers like 'Free Until They Cut Me Down'.

And it is more likely to have been an ethereal closing version of his glorious 'Naked As We Came' that sent the crowd home happy than much of the more rounded but somehow less special newer material.
















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Commenting On: Roundhouse, London, 9/3/2011 - Iron and Wine








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