If you’ve ever been in a wedding, you have probably been told not to lock your knees because it can cut off blood flow and lead to your passing out. I had to remind myself of this old advice several times Friday night when KCRW presented Iron & Wine‘s Sam Beam and Irish songwriter Glen Hansard at the Sayers Club in Hollywood.
Walking up to the Sayers Club, you almost feel as though you are entering a really fancy warehouse. There are no signs outside and the building is solid gray, yet people are dressed for a classy night out. Upon entering, you understand why. The Sayers Club is a gem in the picked-over venue mine that is Hollywood. It radiates class with artistic chandeliers, dim and gentle lighting, leather couches, and a bar staff that is friendly and attentive.
I knew this would be a special night when a representative of KCRW announced that there would not be any filming or audio recording done of the evening. It would truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a single moment in time.
Dress shoes and pinot noir aside, this was a surprisingly casual evening. Being that the two performers are both stellar, credible, and also friends, how else could the performance order be decided than a coin toss? It came up heads, which meant Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam would kick off the show.
With his grizzly beard and softly combed hair, Sam Beam walked onto the stage in a simple black suit with no tie. He grabbed his guitar, and after saying a few words, he began his first song, which was from his upcoming album, Ghost On Ghost. The crowd was silent. No phones, no talking — the only disruption was one broken glass that Beam joked about mid-verse.
After this, he said he had no real plan for a set list and asked if the audience wanted to hear anything in particular. This resulted in a flood of requests, which soon lead to the playing of “Jesus the Mexican Boy.” Being that it is an older song, Beam remarked how he would have to “remember how to play this one.” After one wrong chord and a nonchalant “Oh shit,” Beam brought people to tears with the gentle ballad. He joked about how “there is a common misconception about musicians that they practice; that is more for sports guys.”
Beam continued with fan favorites, such as “Tree By The River,” “Flightless Bird,” and “Trapeze Swinger.” After the first few lines of “Trapeze Swinger,” someone commented to a friend, “I love this song.” Beam stopped for a second thanking him, which made the whole crowd burst into laughter, then he continued on the same line as though he had never stopped. His soothing voice, dry wit, and charming Southern style overwhelmed the crowd as they watched intently, unable to believe their eyes. Beam thanked the audience and casually introduced a “good friend” who would take us on an entirely different journey.
When Glen Hansard took the stage, he brought with him an entirely different energy. He walked up in his jeans and boots, strapped on his old guitar with holes in it from wear, and wailed into the microphone in his passionate Irish style. He opened up with a new song and followed it with “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting,” the first single from his latest release.
Hansard ran through several new and old songs, including “Maybe Not Tonight, “Say It To Me Now,” and “Gold.” Throughout his set, he told several anecdotes about his career, including his first trip to Los Angeles and how a KCRW employee let him stay at her house for several weeks while he busked on the 3rd Street Promenade.
At one point, he broke a string on his guitar and told us about another LA adventure during which he ran into Marilyn Manson in a bathroom. Manson said, “Aren’t you that guy from the movie?” Hansard ended up hanging out with Manson and his large group of friends at the shock rocker’s house all night.
When Hansard finished, Beam joined him on stage, and they each played a cover song of their choosing while the other musician played guitar and sang harmonies. Beam chose “Debris” by The Faces, and Hansard followed with Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes.”
They concluded the night by each playing one more request. The unanimous decision of “Boy With A Coin” was honored by a seemingly hesitant yet appeasing Beam. Hansard also appeased the crowd with “Falling Slowly” from the film Once. He insisted on closing the night with one extra song, an old Irish tune called “The Auld Triangle,” and due to his “fundamental problem with authority,” Hansard chose to add an extra chorus to the song at the expense of the Sayers Club’s supportive and patient sound guys.
This is why we are members of KCRW: because they make more magic happen than Chris Angel and KCRW’s magic is legit. They provided true fans with an opportunity to see two of today’s most prolific songwriters in one of the most intimate venues in Los Angeles. You do not completely understand the intimacy of an event like this until you can focus on things like the scuffs on an artist’s shoe or an enlarged knuckle on their root-note finger. These little details made Beam and Hansard both uniquely human and god-like simultaneously.
Hansard made a comment regarding a lyric in one of Beam’s songs, and it stuck with me throughout the show. The line was “new fruit on the old fruit tree,” and Hansard said that things like that make him want to be a better musician, and it is experiencing moments like that that make living in Los Angeles worth it. We have the opportunity to see the most amazing people in such a human light.
Special thanks to KCRW for just doing what they do. What would LA be without them?
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