Review of Iron & Wine live at Leeds Metropolitan University, 17th March 2011.

Having often relied on the appreciative howls of the audience to intertwine with the solitary sounds of his acoustic guitar, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam has added several other musicians to his arsenal for shows in the UK and Ireland. A brief set from Daniel Martin Moore, another constituent of Sub Pop's contemporary community, was well received, but his familiar blend of Kentucky infused folk only served to whet the appetite of those who were readying for the prospect of something different from the headline act. After taking to the stage - all facial hair and effortless calm - Beam and his band introduced a wonderfully impressive full sound, which does little to detract from the frontman's obvious talents with the guitar. The beauty of 'Boy With A Coin', with its undeniably catchy hook is quickly countered by the fragmented yet equally absorbing, 'Me And Lazurus'. During Beam's past performances, in which he placed exclusivity on his soft vocals and twanging strings, it would have been folly to envisage the 36-year-old's sound being bolstered by female backing vocals and.saxophone solos, but it works majestically here and, as mentioned, does little to deter from Beam's musicianship, nor his song writing ability.

Iron & Wine

The Leeds Metropolitan stage seemed to be a slight anomaly in the band's otherwise tour of intimate and grandiose venues, and I could only help but imagine how their progressive sound presumably worked effortless with the surroundings of the Edinburgh Playhouse or the Dublin Olympia. However, Beam and company seemed thankfully wrapped up in the music and other than a few quips with the audience - mostly concerning St Patrick's Day - they assuredly ploughed through the rest of the set and delivered a neat ensemble of musical arrangements and toe-tapping melodies to satisfy even the most discerning of audience member. 'Wolves' (Song of the Shepherds' Dogs) from 2007's acclaimed 'The Shepherd's Dog' was greeted by a pocket of muted whoops and cheers, but it was the sensational 'Lion's Mane' that earned the plaudits. As the evening's penultimate offering, it wrapped up the set with aplomb and was perfectly complimented by the rhythmic saxophone. After the brief flurry of excitement that was 'Tree By The River', complete with audience handclaps, Sam Beam and Iron & Wine departed, leaving behind a lingering sense of appreciation for their expansive and generous new sound. Whether this 36-year-old South Carolina native chooses to retreat back to the wondrous seclusion of his solo act or experiment with these new ideas is hard to predict - but the group have made a substantial case for the latter on their tour of the UK and Ireland.

Michael West

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