Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 11/03/2011 | Iron & Wine – HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh

11/03/2011 | Iron & Wine – HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh

Emily Jackett


I first heard of Iron and Wine through a young Devendra Banhart as he tried to bring his brand of freakfolk to the masses. Banhart’s compilation of contemporary folk music The Golden Apples of the Sun, introduced Iron and Wine in amongst the young acts at the time, including such luminaries as Antony & the Johnsons, Joannna Newsom and Coco Rosie just to mention a few.

Whilst these acts have evolved in leaps and bounds beyond their early DIY aesthetics and freakish charms, their sound has evolved naturally, bringing new ideas and concepts not possible in bedroom recordings to now exist as genres unto themselves.

This progression seems to be a stumbling point for Iron and wine’s new work and live shows. The early days of Iron and Wine as only Samuel Beam and his hushed voice, whispered lullaby’s and acoustic guitar have given way to a bigger sound.

The wonderfully endearing traits of Iron and Wine’s music are the lyrical, the introspective, the meandering and haunting. Delicate deft finger picking, pulling at heart strings and blowing dust from memories we never made. This minimalist approach has to grow, to move somewhere – but a bigger band sound doesn’t always equal better when it comes to heart-wrenching folk balladry.

I support all artists  in experimentation, in expanding and developing their sound, which is exactly what Iron and Wine has done with his last two full band studio efforts. But after seeing the show on Friday it seemed tired, full of cliches and dare I say, boring.

The band comprised was a full set up packed with synthesisers, trumpets, banjos and bass players, which lent itself very nicely to the African inspired grooves from the new record. The band was tight and very well accomplished musicians in their own right, playing solos note for note, interchanging from the multitude of instruments at their disposal, breaking the music down and building it up all to perfect sequence. But it was this exact perfectness that diminished the relationship between artist and listener. The band performed the songs so exactly that it lacked any of the fragility or whimsy charms that make Iron and Wine so endearing.

And whilst Samuel Beam’s beard of monstrous proportions, affable personality and strong song writing  must be duly noted, it was not enough to break the nervous tension between the songs and the listeners consciousness.


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