I just got back from the taping for the Iron and Wine episode for this upcoming season of "Austin City Limits", which I only found out about because of some fortuitous KUT listening yesterday. After arranging to get my shift at Little City covered, frequent concert-going companion Chad and I went at about 3:45 to get in line to try to get a good enough number to get in after they let in what was going to feel like 7,000 late-coming vee-eye-pees most of whom probably did not know who they were about to see.
We got in, obviously. And excepting a jackass not heeding the advice of the staff before the show and shutting their cellphone off* because it interferes with their equipment and the dude working on growing dreads directly in front of me having sharted at about 8:01, the experience was great.
*The abuse of cellphones has become a plague on society. People are so attached to their fucking cellphones--and as such so detached from the world that exists outside of their ever shrinking bubble--that they can't interact properly in public anymore. If you're asked to turn your cellphone off, turn your goddamn cellphone off. This goes for airplanes, movie theaters, studios where broadcasts are being recorded, and especially the counter of a business where the employee is supposed to be helping your inconsiderate ass. HANG UP YOUR FUCKING PHONES, YOU SELF-INVOLVED FUCKS! All right, that's the last cellphone abuse rant for at least a day. I'd say I apologize, but when people are on their cellphone for an entire workout session at the gym this world is past fucked on the matter.
Being one who is terrible at remembering orders of setlists, I'll wait until I see one posted to insert the link to it somewhere in this general vicinity. What I can tell you is that once again, many of the songs have been radically reworked. If you've seen Sam Beam and company more than once, you know that he's not one to rest on his laurels. If you've somehow managed to not have heard Iron and Wine releases past Our Endless Numbered Days, I can tell you that much of what has come since has the vibe of, say, "Free Until They Cut Me Down" or "On Your Wings" but with much more instrumentation (three guitars, organ/piano, two men on percussion, violin through a pedal). Basically, think outro from "On Your Wings" with a full-on freak out. But honestly, if you haven't heard the new Iron and Wine stuff, I don't really want to talk to you.
Moving on... As has generally happened when I've seen Iron and Wine, the 400 or so people in the studio were treated to a four-song set of low-key, Sam and Sarah tunes to warm us up, kicking it off with "Each Coming Night". Unlike what was to follow, they played it pretty close to the studio track. From there on, there were some pretty drastic rearrangements. To illustrate my point, I've now seen "Boy With a Coin" performed twice. Each time it was completely different than the album, but neither version matched even remotely. "Woman King" was very different, at the end devolving into a primordial musical muck--re-forming on the other side into (if memory serves me correctly) "Wolves (Song of the Shepherd's Dog)". The complete reinvention of "Love and Some Verses" was spectacular, while their rendition of "Upward Over the Mountain" was incredibly moving.
Perhaps the most fun part of the show (aside from the constant cheering for Paul Niehaus repeatedly encouraged by Sam), however, was wondering how PBS was going to get around all of the cursing. For instance, in the closer of the regular set, "Trapeze Swinger", "Fuck the man" is a very central lyric. In "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car", there's an easily miss-able lyric on "birds shitting". It really seemed like they played just about every song in the Iron and Wine catalog that cursed, which is really funny to me.
But you'll see all of these things soon enough. If you get a chance to see him proper before then, do so.