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Wednesday, December 13

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Transmission
« Lullabies and Loud Noises @ Schubas, 1/31 Pulling Strings: For classical music in Chicago, you got a guy - February 2014 »

Concert Mon Feb 03 2014

Hugs and Love from Iron & Wine's Sam Beam @ Old Town School

By Amanda Koellner

Sam Beam Iron & Wine 2.jpg
Sam Beam (photos by Joshua Mellin)

About three quarters of the way through Sam Beam's set at the Old Town School of Folk Saturday night, a woman in the crowd yelled, "Can I hug you?" "I've been giving you spiritual hugs all evening," Beam replied matter-of-factly. Such was the tone of the singer's Saturday night show, a benefit concert for the school, during which he largely played whatever the small audience requested with only the help of his acoustic guitar, squeezing our spirits on a cold Chicago evening.

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The Haden Triplets (photos by Joshua Mellin)

Third Man Records artists The Haden Triplets opened the night with a handful of striped-down country tunes that sounded completely Coen Brothers approved, as if they could have been heard during an opening set for O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s Soggy Bottom Boys or at The Gaslight on the same night as Llewyn Davis. Although the sisters have been in music for a couple of decades (they're the daughters of revered jazz bassist Charlie Haden), they only recently united as a band. Rife with talent, the charming act's set featured covers like The Carters' "Single Girl, Married Girl" and Webb Pierce's "Slowly". When they gushed about the immense sound quality in Maurer Hall, violinist and most prominent of the singing sisters, Petra, said, "I can hear my heartbeat," appropriately capturing the Lincoln Square venue's crystal-clear acoustics.

Sam Beam Iron & Wine 4.jpg
Sam Beam (photos by Joshua Mellin)

When Beam took the stage around five minutes before 8pm for his first of two performances that night, he immediately asked what we wanted to hear, fashioning an intimate tone — the perfect compliment to his September performance at the Chicago Theater, which found him accompanied by a large band and backup singers. He kicked things off with his cover of New Order's "Love Vigilantes", presumably heard in the collection of hollers, per Beam's request that we request.

As the floor remained open for our opinions on the setlist, two attendees battled it out for their chance to hear "Lead Into the Light" and "Jezebel", with the latter proving victorious. "I don't know what I'm playing," Beam said, with a self-deprecating set of giggles, honored by the fact that folk school would host him. "I played at Berklee recently," he shared, laughing even more, as he also did when expressing his gratitude for our acceptance of poor grammar in the form of "You and I" before breaking into the breezy track ("You and Me" would, for the record, be the appropriate phrasing). A cover of "Freebird" also affirmed Beam' playful side (a joke he quite likes, as he pulled the same stunt at his Chicago Theater show), getting as far as "Cause there's too many places I've lived to see" before abandoning the operation.

Sam Beam Iron & Wine 3.jpg
Sam Beam (photos by Joshua Mellin)

When a married couple, six-and-a-half years in, requested he play their wedding song, Beam eventually obliged, gifting them with "Passing Afternoon", and a wish that the betrothed experience six-and-a-half more years of happiness. Classics ("The Trapeze Swinger"), newer tracks ("Grace For Saints and Ramblers"), songs Beam dubbed largely unknown ("A Stranger Lied Beside Me"--which he called "weird, yet fun"), and the lack of a fourth wall between the singer-songwriter and his audience (making love blessings, such as the aforementioned, possible) all concerted into a near-perfect evening.

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As guests gathered their coats and custom-made posters everyone in attendance was given (a beautiful piece by local artist Diana Sudyka), Beam returned to the stage for an encore comprised of, "God Made the "Automobile", rounding out the spiritual hug of a set before getting ready to do it all again in the name of music education.

 
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