Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pagan Angel in a Sold-Out Chapel

With a recent haircut and a freshly-trimmed beard, Sam Beam took the stage in the Edman Chapel at Wheaton College on February 15. Located outside of Chicago, the university is known as being one of the top five Christian colleges in the United States. The campus is incredibly strict on who visits or even what the students are allowed to do. It has not even been a decade since they had totally lifted a ban on dancing. How would a venue as strict as this affect the musical genius behind Iron & Wine? If anything, Sam Beam capitalized on this and made this solo show on of his greatest.

Appearing on stage after a short opening band, Sam nonchalantly approached the microphone. After a quick introduction, Sam explained how his show would go down. “They told me I couldn’t swear,” he said. Most of the audience turned and looked at each other, wondering how they could censor his art. The way Sam said it, it seemed Wheaton officials had sprung this on him not long before show time. He quickly loosened the audience back up by adding, “So anytime there’s a wordy-dird, I’m just not gonna say or play anything. You can fill it in if you want, though. There’s a lot to choose from,” getting a laugh from the crowd. With that, the show began.

What a beginning it was. Most fans come to Iron & Wine shows hoping that Sam will play “The Trapeze Swinger”, a nine and a half minute epic with some of his best lyrics and loveliest guitar, but recently it seems like he had been avoiding the song. The reaction when he started playing the recognizable guitar opening was unbelievable. The fact he opened the show with one of the biggest fan favorites blew the audience away. Sam’s rendition slowed it down ever so slightly, allowing him to have more fun with the vocals at first, and then deliver them with full force at the end to add to them emotional impact of the lyrics. After the first song had ended, the crowd seemed more than satisfied with the show, happy paying twenty dollars to hear that song alone.
Sam continued with hit after hit with “Woman King” and “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)”. Introducing the next as “a song about Jesus”, Sam played “Jesus the Mexican Boy”, much to the confusion and dismay of the Wheaton officials scattered throughout the venue. After the song, he apologized but said he had to do it, “being in a church makes me uncomfortable”. Although he told the crowd he felt this way, eventually no one would be able to see it. Sam began to loosen up and joke around, having fun with the audience (making light of the recent uplifting of the ban, saying, “So you guys can dance now… That’s awesome.”). Sam’s presence on stage was excellent. He continued to impress the audience by strumming once and tuning his guitar so quickly, there was barely anytime between songs. “I’ve got a tuner right here, I don’t know why I’m doing this,” joking about tuning his guitar himself. Whenever he began to play, cheers would always go up. Once after one fan cheered uproariously during the opening of a song, Sam stopped to question him, “Do you know what this song is?”. The fan, confused, didn’t say anything. Sam, poking fun at his audience and himself, responded, laughing, “The openings, they all sound the same, come on!” Sam clearly was enjoying himself, declaring, “ I didn’t know church could be this fun!”

Sam played an array of songs, coming from various albums and EPs, including “The Devil Never Sleeps”, “Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song)”, and “Jezebel”. Finally, Sam left the stage after playing the always-moving “Resurrection Fern”. After leaving the audience in suspense for a minute, Sam returned to play one last song. “This one’s for the Northern students,” he quietly declared, silencing the crowd. With that, he began to play “Dead Man’s Will”, a fitting song and a fitting tribute. Tears came to the eyes of crowd members as Sam sang, “May my love reach you all / I locked it in myself and buried it too long / Now that I come to fall / Please say it’s not too late now that I’m dead and gone.” The song, as well as the rest of the concert, left a lasting impression on all those who attended which won’t be soon forgotten. Sam Beam will now rejoin with Iron & Wine for an international tour, set to return to North America in a month and a half.

Resurrection Fern (Live in Chicago, 09-23-07) - Iron & Wine

1 comment:

Clint said...

I am falling pretty hard for The Shepherd's Dog.