Iron & Wine – Birmingham Town Hall: 10/03/2011



Sam Beam strides onstage with a grin spread right across his face, and seems genuinely surprised by the welcome of the enthusiastic crowd in Birmingham’s Town Hall. He quickly complains that his voice won’t be up to much due to a cold, but over a stunning 90 minute set leaves no-one with any impression that he’s even slightly off-colour.


Beam is backed by an 8-piece band who weave his songs through myriad changes of style and intensity, and fans are often left waiting for Beam’s lustrous vocals before being able to recognise the tune the band are playing. This was particularly true of the large number of tunes taken from 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog album, and most notably Lovesong Of The Buzzard, which was given a buoyant, Carribean high-life style arrangement.


The band were all highly involved in creating dense, heavily layered and seemingly semi-improvised versions of the songs, and the use of percussion, electronics and saxophone added an eerie, almost sleazy feel to some of the tunes. New songs from this year’s Kiss Each Other Clean record were treated fairly straight, but it’s hard to fault the shimmering melody and hazy, reminiscent mood of a song like Tree By The River.


The album’s incredible opening song Walking Far From Home closed the main set tonight. As the band built layers and layers up over the simple, folk influenced foundations, it was hard not to be left covered in goosebumps as the song echoed around the old hall’s brilliant acoustics. Beam returned to a rousing encore to perform what could be considered his signature tune, Naked As We Came, accompanied only by mandolin, guitar and some gorgeous harmony from the band.


This closer was just another spine-tingling moment in a set littered with them, and begs the question – is Sam Beam becoming one of the finest songwriters of this generation? On tonight’s evidence, that status is already assured.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.