Friday, 18 March 2011

Iron & Wine, Sage Gateshead, Wednesday 16 March 2011

Friday, 18 March 2011
There were three gigs to choose from in Newcastle/Gateshead this week – all on Wednesday night. The Academy was hosting Primal Scream (seen ‘em), Elbow was at the Arena (too expensive) and Iron + Wine were coming to The Sage. Since I was practically broke from seeing The Wonder Stuff on Saturday and The Wombats the week before, It was an easy choice to make.

I’ve only got one record – The Sea + the Rhythm – which, if you don’t know, is a little EP released on Sub Pop in 2003. It’s full of some real corkers – a man, an acoustic guitar and not much more. But you can’t go too far wrong with that kind of equation, so accompanied by a friend of mine (who only knew ‘of’ them) and after my description of what they were like he was firmly on board, so off we went.

But before I tell you what I think, can I please have a moment for a brief narrative in a scene-setting stylee which, I hope, will give some context to my review.

Over my distinguished and extensive career in music snobbery, there are a few points on which I am emphatically resolute:

1. No Top 40 Pop Fluff
2. No Country & Western
3. No Thrashy Vomit Noise-Making Death Metal
4. …and absolutely, for no reason, by no means, certainly not, under no circumstances ANY JAZZ.

Now that we are clear, please allow me to continue.

I wondered how the lovely Mr Sam Beam would handle bringing the one-man-one-guitar thing to the ‘big stage’ – Hall One at the Sage is a 1,640-seater so I was curious how intimate it could be, given the unsophisticated simplistic charm of the records.

It was… okay. There were moments of brilliance: I love the story-telling nature of the songs, and romantic sap that I am, I very easily got swept up in the romance of the lyrics and found that for the most part I was enjoying myself. But the whole thing was tainted slightly by the frequent and unfortunate downward crash into extended passages of jazz-pap-shite. It was quite quiet in there and I suspect it wasn’t received very well in more seats than just my own; I can’t have been alone in thinking OH MY GOD THE JAZZ.

Beam himself must have sensed it, saying, “I hope you don’t mind us fucking with your favourite songs like this. I figured you’d want to hear something a bit different to what’s on the records.” Ouch. Bad call – we minded. I found myself not even recognizing the song until the melody started, and more than once leaned over to my friend to babble apologetically to him, “It sounds NOTHING like this on the CD, I promise!”

But, I have no wish to be too harsh – I did enjoy it. The drummer was handy with a loop pedal, and there were some cool moments that employed its use. I am sad that it is not very likely that my friend will go and buy an Iron + Wine CD after all.

Here's a couple of videos for you.  They ended with “Naked As We Came” – that, to my great relief and pleasure, was largely unaltered arrangement-wise. Sorry the video is mostly of the ceiling of the Sage – no one was taking any pictures so I was trying to hide my camera.

Maybe I should have gone to see Elbow after all.

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