“It feels like 3 in the morning,” said a jet-lagged Sam Beam good-naturedly to an adoring crowd that showered him with affection and shouted song requests Monday at the Paramount Theatre.
Even sleep-deprived, the South Carolina singer-guitarist also known as Iron and Wine was impressive in a two-hour show stocked with folk-rock songs from his decadelong recording career, which began in 2002 on Seattle’s Sub Pop label with “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” an album that drew comparisons to such artists as Neil Young, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake.
Iron and Wine’s fall tour supports the current disc “Ghost on Ghost” (Nonesuch), and features a versatile, talented 12-piece band with three horn players, three backup singers, two violinists, a cellist, guitarist, drummer and organist on Hammond B-3. The show mixed Beam’s acoustic solos with full-band renditions of his songs.
The musical entourage added breadth to Beam’s reflective, often riveting folk tunes, mixing in elements of jazz, pop and a little Motown, as well as dreamy, cooing background vocals and plucked violins. His three horn players, who played trumpet, saxophone, clarinet and flute, sashayed like dancers in a Sha Na Na video, adding mirth to a show quite different from Beam’s solo performances of the past.
With his thick pompadour, full beard and drab gray suit, Beam looked like a Depression-era preacher from an old black-and-white movie. But his easygoing humor kept the show lighthearted and fun, demonstrating that his talent for rich storytelling and poetic lyrics is matched by a newfound sense of showmanship.
He warned fans to cover their ears because a “curse word” in a certain song might offend them — then uttered another expletive when the towel used to lend his acoustic guitar a banjo-like sound dropped to the floor, forcing him to start over.
Later, he teased concertgoers with a short, acoustic rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” after someone requested it.
“You must be careful what you ask for,” he said.
The set spanned the Iron and Wine catalog, from the new “Caught in the Briars” (with its cacophonous instrumentation) and “The Waves of Galveston” to “Grass Windows,” “Kingdom of the Animals,” “Jezebel” and an encore of the searing “Resurrection Fern,” which Beam performed solo before heading off to catch some sleep.
Opening was English soul singer and pianist Laura Mvula (pronounced um-VOOLA), backed by an impressive five-piece band. She performed a short set of songs from “Sing to the Moon,” her debut album released last March.