Three observations I made while attending the Iron and Wine installment of Salt Lake’s biggest music festival: One, people love the saxophone. Man, every time the band whipped out a sax solo, the crowd just couldn’t help but cheer—but more on the performance to come. Two, Sam Beam (the guy we call Iron and Wine) sure does look like a friendly garden gnome up there on the stage. And three, the crowd at the Twilight shows is still awful. I was really hoping the new $5 charge would clear out some of the riff raff and scene kids. At least for this show, it didn’t. My laments are shared by and expanded upon in this City Weekly article, so I won’t dwell on it and get to the music.
The concert opened with the folk-inspired, singer/songwriter Kathleen Edwards. She played a real quality set of songs about lost love and lost farms. The farm talk fit in well, as she had a little bit of country in her, but, thankfully, not too much. It was a pretty chill set, and it seemed like the majority of the crowd, which was mostly sitting down, enjoyed the atmosphere she created, despite not knowing her music. She admitted that probably only 10 people knew her songs, but after the show, I’m thinking she is worth some time to look up.
After a pretty long turnover, Beam took the stage with his acoustic guitar and started his 20-song set. He pleased his longtime fans with a good mix of old and new, and solo and accompanied. What impressed me most was his superb vocals. Sure, they are great on CD, but Beam’s voice really thrives in a live setting, attesting to his natural talent. I also appreciated his graciousness on stage. He came off as very humble, and truly grateful for his fans and the opportunity to play at the Twilight series for a second time.
This was a pretty different performance compared to his previous showing in 2009. Things have just gotten bigger for Beam and the concert series itself. He released a Number-Two album on the charts and has toured extensively since then. And the series has moved to Pioneer Park to accommodate the 40,000-plus crowds it has drawn (there were almost 20,000 at his show this year). Also, last time he came, he didn’t have the band for back-up like he did for this show. But he can’t do a performance without a little singing and playing by himself, so he still came out and played four acoustic songs, including “Jezebel” and his famous Postal Service cover of “Such Great Heights.” During the cover, he forgot some of the words, but the audience was there to help him out by singing along. “Wow,” he said. “You guys know it better than I do.”
Once the band came on, the energy started to flow. They played some of the more poppy and jazzy new stuff that really showed off Beam’s ability to craft good compositions. Some of the highlights for me were “God Made the Automobile” and “House by the Sea.” His closing song, “Flightless Bird, American Moth,” was played solo and really solidified the awesomeness of his vocals.
All in all, this beautiful summer night hosted great music, a crappy audience and delicious, chocolate-covered frozen bananas. I think that might have been the last Twilight show I go to, considering my qualms with the atmosphere. That is, unless the ridiculously cheap price and quality of the bands lures me in again. Given the chance, though, I’d definitely want to see Beam and crew again.
Check out more photos here.