On Friday night, indie-folk act Iron & Wine took the stage at House of Blues with “Tex-Mex” indie rock band Calexico. The supergroup consisted of Sam Beam, the singer-songwriter behind the moniker Iron & Wine, performing alongside vocalist/guitarist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino of Calexico.
The setlist consisted of tracks from their co-produced albums, Years to Burn (2019) and In the Reins (2005), as well as tracks from each act’s independent albums. The group opened with “Follow the Water,” a gentle yet upbeat track from the supergroup’s most recent album. I couldn’t resist swaying along to the tender harmonies from the photo pit. While I find that folk artists often fail to successfully engage an audience, the interplay between the two vocalists resulted in a captivating performance that never bored.
If you’re unfamiliar with Iron & Wine, I would say that the best way to describe their sound is “soft acoustic folk” — think lots of fingerpicking, gentle melodies, and a comforting simplicity. Beam’s soothing voice and dexterous guitar technique paints each song as an almost-lullaby, mesmerizing and delicate.
Calexico, on the other hand, has a generally more upbeat vibe, largely in thanks to the Latin flair that characterizes much of their more recent music. With tracks like “Flores y Tamales” from their 2018 album The Thread That Keeps Us, it was nearly impossible not to dance along to the beat. I was incredibly impressed by the diversity of their discography, ranging from Latin-tinged “Flores y Tamales” to the twangy country sound of “Bisbee Blue,” featured on their 2006 album Garden Ruin.
Interestingly, each group’s most popular songs — like Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” and Calexico’s “Alone Again Or” — failed to make the setlist, much to my dismay. Nonetheless, the group did play a handful of songs from each of their independent discographies, resulting in an incredibly diverse repertoire that widely ranged in sound and mood.
One of my favorite songs on the setlist was the supergroup’s performance of Iron & Wine’s “Boy With a Coin,” from their 2007 album The Shepherd’s Dog. This was a particularly excellent selection because of its unique layering, especially in contrast to many of Iron & Wine’s other more minimal tracks. “Boy With a Coin” features a psychedelic phaser, combined with a lead acoustic rhythm guitar line and earthy percussion. With the full sound produced by the group’s large size, the song was absolutely captivating live.
Before Friday night, I hadn’t heard of Calexico; in all honesty, I didn’t realize they would be playing with Iron & Wine until I showed up at the box office the night of the show. Despite my ignorance, I’m incredibly glad that the groups are touring together, as the combination of talent that took the stage resulted in an absolutely unforgettable performance.
Cover Photo: Victoria Conway