Live Review: Iron & Wine - The Olympia, Dublin, May 29th

Iron & Wine performed a stylish, impressive set of mainly new songs to an adoring crowd in The Olympia last night. Support was provided by the wonderful vocals of John Smith.

It was great to get a chance to see John Smith live last night. He began his set with a song that he sung without the mic with his wonderful vocals filling the impressive Olympia room. This took some courage and silenced the full room. With this start I thought I was going to discover a real star. Unfortunately the biggest problem with John Smith is that vocally he sounds too much like Ray Lamontagne. This wouldn't be a problem if the songs matched the quality of Ray's but they failed to light a fire in me. Maybe with full band it would have been different. I would be very interested in hearing John's latest album 'Great Lakes' and maybe seeing him live with a full band. The highlight from the set was this Lisa Hannigan co-composed track:


With the look of a posh 'Commitments', Sam Beam and his merry band of thirteen arrived on stage to near on hysterical applause from the Iron & Wine fans in attendance. Along with drums, bass, keys and Sam's guitar we had threesomes of strings, brass and backing vocals. The band looked amazing, were very stylish, accomplished and really to entertain. At one point Sam stated that this arrangement had just been together a few weeks which was hard to believe. However the band were assembled to perform Sam's new album entitled 'Ghost on Ghost'.

Apart from five well known and requested songs, Iron & Wine pretty much performed the whole new album. The album is pretty good and contains a number of really good tunes. It flirts with jazzy sounds with a big band soulful sounds. Songs to impress from the new album include "New Mexico's New Breeze", "Caught in the Briars" and this one "Grace for Saints and Ramblers":

The gig was full of contrasts. The band were awesome musicians but failed to ignite the crowd. Between songs the crowd lapped up everything Sam was saying but were muted during the new songs. The mid set 'Buffet' section was by far the most enjoyable with songs like 'Trapeze Swinger' and 'Naked As We Came' getting a great response from the crowd but then again the purpose of the gig was to air the new songs which left people flat. Sam told us many times how much he loves playing Dublin but gave the crowd only a half dozen of so familiar songs. Then there were the people who left early. Those people missed the most poignant, beautiful moment in the night with Sam's blissful rendition of 'Flightless Bird, American Mouth'.

For me as a part-time lover of Iron & Wine I usually find three or four gems in every album and if Iron & Wine release a 'Best of ..' it'll be a great album. However last night there were only three or four gems in the whole set-list so overall last night I was left a bit disappointed by Mr. Beam.