For Iron and Wine and Calexico, one plus one equals three
Boston, Mass., Avalon, Dec. 7, 2005
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - When does one plus one equal three? Apparently when Iron and Wine joins together with Calexico to close a concert that prior to that never came close to reaching those heights.
Iron and Wine is Sam Beam, a former Florida school teacher, who found his muse in music. He landed on the SubPop label and has developed a strong word of mouth with his nouveau folkie sound.
Calexico has been around awhile, mining a somewhat rootsy approach with Mexican sounds.
Each act played separate sets before joining together. That resulted from their collaboration on the strong CD, "Into the Rein" on Overcoat and have hit the road promoting the disc.
They combined forces for a 50-minute set that was high on energy and good interplay, dishing out five of the seven songs on the EP, but unfortunately left out "A History of Lovers," one of the best. On the other hand, those they did play chugged along a little sharper than the CD, the beauty of a live performance.
On his own, the full-bearded Beam was often too low key in his approach. His vocals are a bit on the monotonous side when he doesn't push it much. But on the occasions where he does, it's a far different, more vibrant performance.
But there were not enough moments during his where he seemed to arouse the crowed. In fact, neither band did during the evening. While Iron and Wine and Calexico together encored, it wasn't because the crowd was so wildly enthusiastic during their sets.
In fact, several times during the show, Beam commented how it was such a quiet audience.
He shouldn't have wondered, however, given the low key approach to his music that doesn't have very many highs.
He also did not do himself any favors by killing any kind of momentum he would have achieved by using a different guitar for just about every song, which meant he took a break to get the guitar and dilly dallied before starting the next song.
Calexico is the brainchild of John Convertino and Joey Burns. The Tucson, Ariz.-based band have assembled a rotating cast in Calexico over the years, but has a strong group here. Calexico's decided Mexican flair was underscored by the use of two horn players - Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk - on many songs.
Acoustic guitarist Sal Duran, also helped spice up the sound with a Mexican bent and following Calexico's set, had a chance to do several of his own songs, which moved the crowd. He also was a strong vocal presence on the opening song of the Iron and Wine/Calexico pairing, "He Lays in the Rein.
One must question why the sold-out club was used as the venue for this type of music - it wasn't as if the fans were getting ready to hit the dance floor. A sit-down arrangement would have been far more appropriate and provided a better listening experience.
Iron and Wine and Calexico have a good thing going musically. Maybe that should be the new math of their careers.