Sunday, December 11, 2005

Iron & Wine Calexico | The Spectrum | Dec 8th

I'm a bit late in getting this review posted mainly because I had problems getting my photos uploaded and a busy weekend of holiday activities. However, it had nothing to do with any apathy towards the show.

Before going to the show, I had been most excited to see Calexico. While I liked both bands, I had always prefered Calexico over Iron & Wine. I was always drawn to the varied instrumentation and sounds of Calexico's tunes. However, the reason I enjoyed the concert so much was because of Iron & Wine. The re-interpretation of his songs that Sam Beam exhibited was amazing.

jds and I got a late start for Montreal due to a late work emergency for me and dealing with some stuff at my wife's office. However, we still managed to get up there in time to grab some sushi at Isakaya. Unfortunately, we don't have any sushi restaurants in the Montpelier area so we took advantage of being in a multi-cultural city to fulfill our raw fish cravings. Good place. The fish was really fresh and with the exchange rate, I think it worked out to be only about $25 per person for dinner.

We got to The Spectrum around 9:20 for a 9:00 show and Calexico were already about halfway through their set which was disappointing. Those Canadians are damn punctual. Plus, the place was big and packed. The size and shape of The Spectrum reminded me of Irving Plaza in NYC and unfortunately, we got stuck in the back of it for Calexico's set.

For the part of Calexico's set that we got to hear, "Alone Again Or" and "Crystal Frontier" sounded good. They did a few tunes that sounded new to me and featured a very non-Calexico three electric guitar attack. It'll be interesting to hear how the album versions turn out but they sounded a bit out of place coming from Calexico. For their final song, Salvador Duran joined them for a blistering version of "Guero Canelo".

Duran then stuck around to play a few of his own tunes while Calexico left the stage. Since I'm not a huge flamenco fan, I took this as my cue to go to the bathroom and grab Calexico's tour-only CD, The Book and The Canal. They had sold out of the CD but were taking people's address for later shipments if you wanted to give them your money now. I trusted them so, hopefully, it'll get here next week or so. (Nico, when your copy arrives, I'll forward it onto you. Email me your address again.) When I got back to the concert, Duran was just wrapping up. Amusingly, jds told me that a bunch of couples had started making out during his set. I guess those latin lovers spread the passion.

Speaking of the crowd, I haven't seen that many women at an indie show in a long time. Plus, the age range was much larger than normal. There was everyone from teenagers to folks who appeared to be in their fifties at the show. I'm guessing that it is Iron & Wine that attracts the wider demographics. However, it was a friend's father who introduced me to Calexico and he must have been in his sixties at the time. So, who knows.

After Duran's set, there was an intermission which gave us a chance to move closer to the stage. We ultimately got to about ten feet from the stage which was a huge improvement over our previous spot about 150 ft. back.

After the break, Sam Beam took the stage sporting a scarf despite it being damn hot in the club. I guess that's what happens when you put a Floridian in Montreal in December. Beam then proceeded to play a long set of I&W tunes with varying levels of accompaniment. On some of the songs, it was just Beam and his acoustic guitar. Sometimes he would be joined by just his sister Sara or Joey Burns and other times he would be joined by a bunch of different musicians. On some songs there would be ten people on stage including Beam. This created a really rich and varied set. Ultimately, none of his songs sounded like they do on the album. Either they were built up into grand textured pieces or stripped down in even more minimal versions. I love it when musicians show off their craftsmanship and performed re-worked versions of their tunes. It makes the live experience so much more exciting.

After an hour of so, all of Calexico joined Beam and his band on stage for the rest of the show. They played about two-thirds of In the Reins and did a nice cover of "All Tomorrow's Parties". For the encore, just Beam and Burns came out with acoustic guitar for one last tune.

The only downside to the night was the length of the show. It was about 12:15 by the time the show ended. Three hours is a long show for me. I'm used to shows running an hour to an hour and a half. Three hours of music sounded great but my feet and back were ready for it to end as they rolled through the last few tunes.

One last note, I think there were a number of other Vermonters at the show. I saw someone there with a Higher Ground t-shirt on and when we crossed the border back into the US, the border guard said a number of people had come through before us saying they had been "at some Iron and something concert up there". Good to see the love for I&W and Caleixco in Vermont.


Anonymous said...

Hey Murph,

I went to the In the reins show last night in Chicago. I liked IW Endless Numbered Days enough, and I really liked the Woman King EP. I hadn't listened much to Calexico, but I knew enough to form reasonable expectations, I thought. In the Reins, though, I really, really liked. So I went pretty much for the event of the two together, even though I probably wouldn't have gone to see either on their own - especially in the Congree Theater which is a venue I do not care for. Too big, for me.

Due to the ineptitude of the house staff, most of the crowd missed 1/2 of Calexico, who were the second band to perform. This bummed me out because I really liked the 1/2 I heard: they sounded great and like a wall of sound. It made me want to see them next time they come through. I didn't know the 3 guitars thing was new. I loved it. When the trumpets played with that much guitar...that was great.

Like at your show, Duran (?) did his bit and then we had Red Red Meat. It was weird to see Red Red Meat. I had seen them a long time ago, and I guess I should have been more excited than I was. Oh well.

Next IW came on. Beam's voice is amazing and his guitar sounded great. But I was kind of bored. His whispery tunes were weird in the space and I liked it better when other players joined him.

So, I thought the In the Reins material was fantastic. They played ATP in Chicago, as well.

But hear's what totally bummed me out: Iron and Wine didn't play my favorite song. And the combo group played everything off of In the Reins except my favorite two songs.

I'm still angry.

Flatlander said...


How did everyone miss half of the Calexico set? Did it start too early or were there sound problems?

From reading reviews of different shows on this tour, it seems like a lot of people showed up more familiar with one of the bands but left excited about the other band. I don't understand why but it seems to be a recurring theme.

Red Red Meat? Wholly 1997! I didn't even know they were still around. That must have made the show four hours long. Damn.

I&W didn't play all of my favorie tunes either but I was so enthralled with the great renditions of the tunes they did, I didn't care at all. He should record with a full band from now on.

I was hoping to hear "History of Lies" during the final set but at least they played "16, Maybe Less".

chad said...

I really wanted to hear History of Lovers (I think that's what you meant), too. And the IW song I wanted to hear was "Freedom Hangs Like Heaven". Agh.

The screw-up time-wise goes like this: the doors open time was changed from 8pm start to 6pm. At 6:45 they started letting people in. The first band started at 6:45. Calexico came on at 7:00, by which time not many people had gotten in. Most everyone was in at about 7:20 - halfway through the set. A lot of people were PISSED off.

The crowd was a crazy mix, indeed.

Flatlander said...

You're right. I got the song title mixed up with JSBX's "History of Lies". Both are good songs.

Nico said...

I would've felt fortunate to hear half of a Calexico set. Their 2004 Bonnaroo show was the only time they've played anywhere near where I've lived in the 2 years or so since I've been into the band. I was staying in a hotel 10 miles or so from the concert site and traffic was so bad, we missed their entire set and part of Neko Case's (who was playing after them) despite the fact that we left our hotel five hours prior to their set time. I'm too old for that shit.

Murf, I will send my new address when I get it. I found a place in Tuscaloosa today, but I'm not sure when we're actually going to sign the lease and take hold of the place and when our mail service will start there. So, until I figure that out, hold onto it. I'll email you about where to send the check...

thanks again,

chad said...

That stinks, Nico.

The half a set I saw was out of sight. I loved it. I might be trying to get copies of this ep from you guys when you get it. If only there was a way for you to get tracks to me...