Iron & Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days (Deluxe Edition).
On Apr. 30, Sam Beam, widely known as his stage name, Iron & Wine, performed at the Kennedy Center with D.C.’s own orchestra, the NSO Pops to celebrate the 15th anniversary re-release of Our Endless Summer Days. The first half of the performance consisted of Beam backed by the orchestra, which left during the second half, leaving Beam alone as he performed songs old and new.
With the orchestra, who had only practiced playing his music once before the performance, Beam’s songs were entracing. Thickly-bearded Beam, accessorizing with a glass of red wine placed on a wooden stool in front of him, sang soulfully,though softly. The orchestra complimented the songs, adding a perception of danger usually not associated with his self-described, “dippy,” sad songs. The backup singers, three clearly trained singers who had also only sang his songs once before at three in the afternoon that day, added a beautiful, time-stopping, harmonious whisper to his music, balancing the orchestra and helping keep his songs authentic.
The first half of the concert was beautifully done. The orchestra and Beam were in communion to put audience in a daze. Beam, too, was wonderfully humble, in awe of the turnout and support for his own music. His charisma was genuine; his enthusiasm for the songs and the journey was shared with the audience. He wasn’t here to perform, as much as to share the songs that he was grateful for with the people who shared those feelings. He reminded the audience to “follow your bliss,” thanking them for allowing him to pursue his. Iron & Wine and NSO’s triumphant finale with “Trapeze Swinger” sounded as if the song had been originally written with the orchestra. The mesmerizing experience received an instant standing ovation.
The concert was powerful. Sitting in a glorious room in the Kennedy Center, the audience listened to songs that had shaped much of their existing music tastes. Although I was likely the youngest person in an audience comprised of thirty and forty-something year olds, I nevertheless managed to feel a sense of comradery. Beam’s music had an effect on us, and that’s why we were there, fifteen years (or in my case seven years) later at his show, celebrating a sad, acoustic album (and a man with a soothing voice) that once struck some chord in us. It had been a while since I had really listened to that album, since I had felt those “dippy” feelings that Beam claims his album inspires. I felt the need to close my eyes, and think about the scenes that his songs conjure: a flickering candle in a dark room, a sunset over the ocean, the breeze in the woods. Cliché, sure—but the concert felt like a big reunion, a time for us all to listen to our past, to transport back, and see how far we’ve come.
Photo Credit: Sub Pop Records