The songs of Iron & Wine evoke a place where there is no calendar hanging on the wall to mark time, no jet planes flying overhead, and certainly no telecommunications. Our modern world has yet to arrive.

Listening to Sam Beam at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday night was to step into an oil painting on the wall of an old museum, the scene lush with references to the natural world. It was, without question, a landscape.

Sunsets and wind, the sea and summer, bougainvillea and blooms, rain, and ravens in the corn. A mountain stream, a pasture, a mare, ashes, cinder and smoke, weeds, and a bucket of snow. Juniper, rosebushes and leaves. Thunder clouds, a creek, cedars and roaming dogs. Thorns, roses, and blue-eyed birds.

Upon a closer listen, you find errant fragments scattered in the songs like a detonated time capsule working in reverse; a pistol, a pizza parlor, an automobile, a photograph, or a train. But Iron & Wine stays true to its moniker. It is poetry frozen in a world that never progressed past the 1950’s, and one that trades in the currencies of the things that don’t change from one century to the next; love, death, childhood, heartache.

The night broke orchestral with a short tranquil piece (“Follow My Heart”) written by Pauline Frechette, who was in attendance. Conductor David Campbell (Beck’s dad!) then brought Iron & Wine to the stage, joking that on this occasion, the collective would be known as “The Sam Beam Orchestra”. And what a collective it was.

The performance served as a fifteen-year anniversary celebration of the release of Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron & Wine’s widely-admired 2004 LP, and included ten of the album’s twelve tracks. Early selection “Free Until They Cut Me Down” was laced with some attitude, and moved along at the snappy pace of a movie score played under a chase scene.

The molasses drip of Beam’s vocals guided twenty-two songs split over two sets; the first with the orchestra, the second without. Buoyed by the pristine acoustics of the Hall, the interplay of lead guitar, orchestral elements, and a trio of backup singers echoed languidly around the room.

“Sodom, South Georgia,” another cut off of Our Endless Numbered Days, got real with Beam quivering about how “all dead white boys say, ‘God is good.’” Backup vocals added by Kelly Hogan, Eliza Hardy Jones, and Nora O’Connor were pretty, but mostly unneeded on the orchestra-backed “Sodom.”

A better fit for the trio’s harmonies came on the one-two punch of “Weary Memory” (the only track played off of Iron & Wine’s glorious debut, 2002’s The Creek Drank The Cradle), and “Flightless Bird, American Mouth.”

Sam Beam, so pensive and restrained on his records, was at ease and in constant motion on stage. If not turning to lock eyes with a member of this enormous backing band, he could be found swaying his hips and striking his guitar strings with percussive flair (especially on “Jezebel”).

Whereas some such orchestral collaborations are thrown together to sell tickets, or because it might sex up a concert hall’s annual calendar, following through with thoughtful arrangements of eleven songs is no small feat. David Campbell’s arrangements were impeccable – “Milkweed” was a particular standout.

Sam Beam, meanwhile, delivered on his own part of the bargain with orchestral precision. Altogether, there was nary a sour note, each rendition played as cleanly as the next. “Last Night” flirted with an acoustic funk rare to these parts of the Disney Hall; forceful plucks on Beam’s guitar found an unlikely call and response answer from the woodwinds.

“Passing Afternoon” unearthed the titular lyric, “There are things that drift away, like our endless numbered days.” This simple endless/numbered oxymoron slipped us a gentle reminder on mortality, a theme Beam would return to at the end of the orchestral set with “The Trapeze Swinger.”

In what was perhaps the centerpiece of the performance, and his oeuvre at-large, Sam Beam stares death in the face. Eight verses each include a plea to be remembered for a unique quotidian memory, before finally landing on the existential conclusion that “the trapeze act was wonderful, but never meant to last.” To say their good bye, the orchestra ended the tune with a hushed pastoral wave.

With little to no variation in their overall sound, Iron & Wine somehow keeps things fresh with just a few shades of their smoky autumnal color palette. For some artists, this would create redundancies and boredom for fans. For Beam, it illuminates a sense of security, comfort, and coziness. The Danish feeling of hygge. Sitting by a fire with your parents, or under a tree with a lover.

By the night’s end, the audience possessed a collection of images like snapshots in a dusty box; broken rosary beads, a child’s feet lost in his father’s shoes, a burning farmhouse, and a body buried in Christmas bows.

Iron & Wine at Walt Disney Concert Hall Setlist

Set I with Orchestra

Sunset Soon Forgotten
Free Until They Cut Me Down
Passing Afternoon
Fever Dream
On Your Wings
Last Night
Naked As We Came
Sodom, South Georgia
Cinder and Smoke
The Trapeze Swinger

Set II solo/with backup singers

Right for Sky
Waves of Galveston
Each Coming Night
Weary Memory
Flightless Bird, American Mouth
Tree By The River
Boy With a Coin
Love and Some Verses

E: Waitin’ for a Superman (Flaming Lips cover)