As rain poured on the streets of downtown Eugene, the crowd inside the sold-out McDonald Theatre remained dry, eagerly awaiting Iron & Wine’s calming acoustic sound beneath a dreamy sky of decorative clouds.
Sam Beam, better known by his stage name, Iron & Wine, played with a unique supporting band Thursday night, with members consisting of Elizabeth Goodfellow on drums/percussion, Eliza Jones on keys/organ, Teddy Rankin-Parker on cello and Sebastian Steinberg on bass.
When the packed theater’s lights finally dimmed, Beam and his band took the stage and were met with thunderous applause. The neo-folk songwriter took a swig from his namesake glass of red wine and proceeded to give his version of a warm welcome to the crowd.
“I thought you guys were gonna show up fucked up and rowdy. It’s been a long time since I stepped foot in Eugene,” he said. “It’s a blessing to come all the way across the country to a big room of smiling people.”
Beam traded his wine for one of four adjacent Taylor guitars and gracefully began to pick its nylon strings, beginning the set with the soothing “Passing Afternoon,” from popular album “Our Endless Numbered Days.” Though the show was part of a tour promoting Iron & Wine’s latest release, “Beast Epic,” the setlist touched on the majority of the singer/songwriter’s discography, with songs expanding across nine records.
Beam continued with new track, “Call It Dreaming,” followed by a rhythmic, entertaining rendition of his 2011 “Monkeys Uptown.” Steinberg’s slappy performance on stand-up bass created the song’s backbone, as crowd members swayed and bobbed their heads. This performance was later followed by Iron & Wine hit, “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.” Easily one of the most recognizable and anticipated songs of the night, the crowd erupted in screams and cheers before Beam could play a second chord. Beam laughed at the audience’s reaction, paused and gave a humorously exasperated look before resuming the song. The crowd settled, and looked to the stage with expressions inspired by Beam’s poetic lyricism.
Halfway through the set, the band exited the stage, leaving self-described “main squeeze,” Beam softly illuminated in orange, candle-like light. “Now for some you-and-me time,” he said, continuing the show with a more intimate performance of another new track, “Song in Stone.” Beam tuned his guitar in preparation for his next song, “Lovers’ Revolution,” a rollercoaster performance that can only be heard at live performances, which includes laughter, ad libbing and beatboxing.
Despite the slower nature of Iron and Wine’s folk songs, the crowd remained lively and energetic in its own way — exchanging banter and jokes with Beam throughout the night. “I love you!” exclaimed a voice coming from the back of the room. “Thank’s for coming, Dad,” Beam replied.
Another audience member called out, “How’s your wine? Does it taste like iron?”
”Did you time yourself to see how long it took for you to come up with that?” the singer replied.
Beam’s personality was entertaining enough that he was able to keep good energy flowing throughout the night, even with the set being mostly slower songs. His character proved that he can put on a show by himself just as good as any full-ensemble could.
When the band returned for “Trapeze Swinger,” the Eugene crowd cheered for Beam’s lyrics: “The pearly gates / Had some eloquent graffiti / Like “We’ll meet again,” and “Fuck the Man!” The uniqueness of Beam’s band shone through in the songs that followed, where percussionist Elizabeth Goodfellow created one-of-a-kind sounds with a wide array of objects, including chimes and crank noisemaker toys.
After wrapping-up the initial set with “Jesus the Mexican Boy,” Beam waved goodbye to the McDonald Theatre audience, taking his band and his wine with him. The exit was short-lived, and after a minute of the crowd generating hype, Iron & Wine promptly returned to the stage.
This time, band members appeared wearing fake beards, paying homage to Beam’s trademark facial hair. Soft, blue light filled the McDonald Theatre as Iron & Wine played “Boy With a Coin.” The crowd grinned and swayed along. When the song ended, fans were still cheering for their favorite bearded bard. Beam picked up his glass, waved Eugene good night and waltzed offstage.
Call It Dreaming
Grace for Saints and Ramblers
Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Arms of a Thief
Song in Stone
About a Bruise
House by the Sea
Jesus the Mexican Boy
Encore: Boy with a Coin
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