Last night, I went to see Calexico and Iron & Wine at the Warfield. I guess this tour is in support of their new collaborative album, in the reins. They had an interesting lineup: Some unfunny and obnoxious comedian, followed by Calexico, followed again by the “comedian”, followed by Iron & Wine, and finally the whole crew (minus the comic).

Overall, the show was pretty good. Calexico, whom I hadn’t heard before, was really awesome. They had 6 members onstage, and were really a joy to watch and listen to. Three of their members played multiple instruments. Two horn players (trumpets) also played xylophones, guitar and vocals. The slide guitar player also played regular guitar. This variation allows for a broad spectrum of intensity and texture in the music, and I found it inspiring. In fact, most bands that can get pull off the live multiple instruments per member thing, like the go! team and lake trout, are always fun to see and hear.

Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) was not as great as he usually is. The last time I saw him was at the Great American Music Hall last year. He really blew me away then. Most of his songs were variations on his songs from The Creek Drank The Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days and assorted covers (he did New Order’s Love Vigilantes, which was really good). This time around, he was not alone, he was mostly amplified, and he had a drummer and a lady singer in tow. He played few old songs, which is okay, but he lacked the softness that makes him so appealing. He transformed from this mellow folk singer to a wannabe rockstar, and it seemed to me contrived and kind of unfortunate.

With that said, the Calexico/Iron & Wine set was awesome. Their styles really compliment one another, and the effect of so many people on stage, not producing an overpowering sound, but rather a very nuanced, varied sound was really cool. Goes to show you what can happen when many talented people take a back seat to the music. Let the whole be greater than the sum of its parts. And lose the comedian…