Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Live Review: Iron & Wine/Calexico
I'm very happy I ended up going to the Iron & Wine/Calexico show at the Wiltern last night. I was surprised at how crowded it was (maybe 1800 people there?). I didn't think either one of these bands was very commercial. Calexico took the stage first (at about 8:30pm?). As usual, the sound at the Wiltern wasn't as good as you'd expect. I've always found Calexico's music interesting, but criticized their lack of soul (the lyrics just don't seem very interesting and the singer has milquetoasty voice). Luckily Calexico was more compelling live than they are recorded. The six musicians on stage showed their skill by frequently changing instruments (I particularly like the pedal steel player). They did a passable version of Love's "Alone Again Or" (although I prefer The Damned and UFO's versions). The biggest reaction from the crowd came when they introduced Mike Watt to play bass on a song.
After a brief intermission, Sam Beam came on stage alone with an acoustic guitar. He performed a couple of songs that showcased his poetic lyrics, delicate voice and strong guitar skills. He was so compelling that the crowd was completely silent. Band members slowly joined him. First a female singer on one song, then they added a drummer and then members of Calexico trickled out. I like Beam's voice so much that I actually prefer hearing it unadorned, but it was a nice change of pace to see him with a large band. At one point he brought out Victoria Williams (I find her voice grating) for a duet of "Always on My Mind" (a song that's been done by Elvis, Willie, Englebert and the Pet Shop Boys). This elicited gagging noises from my girlfriend and another friend, but Beam's heartfelt rendition reminded me of Willie's version.
The combined bands did a nice job on the songs from IN THE REINS (with the exception of drawing out the last song). The first song of the encore ("Wild Horses") had my girlfriend once again seeking shelter in the lobby, but it could have been a lot worse (Mike Watt and Victoria Williams re-emerged).
My girlfriend loved Calexico, but couldn't stand watching Iron & Wine ("boring" and "suicide-inducing" was her assessment). Contrarily, the highlight for me was the Iron & Wine songs but I did enjoy seeing Calexico. Even if you have to pay high ticket prices (my tickets were free), I recommend seeing this tour. Who knows if Iron and Wine and Calexico will ever tour together again?