“Where am I supposed go?” I asked the heavy set bouncer when he told me I couldn’t stand in the only spot my height-challenged girlfriend and I could seem to find for a decent view of Samuel Beam at the NorVa Friday night, Feb. 21.
Slightly annoyed, I took a step forward, which seemed sufficient enough to the bouncer, and continued trying to listen to Beam, known as Iron & Wine onstage and in-studio. Note the use of the verb ‘try.’
Never mind the suffocating 30-degree temperature increase inside the NorVa from the cool February night that would have, in my opinion, better suited Beam’s earnest and affective acoustic performance, the first of his Acoustic 2014 tour.
What got me heated wasn’t that the NorVa became a veritable sauna from the body heat of the estimated 1000 people in attendance; it was the incessant chatter of those who seemed to have no problem paying $30 to spoil the experience of the relatively few attentive, respectful fans heeding Beam’s first words.
“Before I get started, I want to say, shut the fuck up,” Beam said with a wry grin, his eyes moving over the crowd still yapping away as they were during the opening act, The Secret Sisters.
The sonorous members of the audience of all ages quieted briefly for Beam’s first song, “The Trapeze Swinger,” but resumed the raucous as he continued his apparently arbitrary set list, soliciting suggestions from the crowd.
With such an impudent audience, I found the approximately 90-minute performance generous of Beam, one that included songs like “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” “Love Vigilantes,” and “Boy With a Coin.” Beam performed each song with palpable passion and ardency, some with variation from the song’s typical style.
“Such Great Heights,” a crowd favorite, seemed improvised in a new style from a few slip-ups of the finger, to which Beam chuckled.
He didn’t seem terribly upset with the audience’s impudent lack of attention, though his number of references to its sanity may have suggested a subtle annoyance.
“Seriously,” he said slightly disconcertingly, “you guys are crazy.”
I can’t say I disagree. There was Beam, inviting the audience for an intimate glimpse into his soul, and many still thought it better to get drunk, take selfies and talk about their latest trivialities. I was not so much disappointed that I wasn’t able to get the full experience of Beam’s artistic brilliance, but for what he may take away from his experience performing in Norfolk.
However, I can’t say for certain that anyone unable to shut their mouths that night had deliberate intentions to blatantly ignore a man pouring his heart out. Perhaps it was just the comforting substance of his music that gave them that sort of feeling one has being at home; the one that makes you feel unrestricted, welcome and loved.
By Derek Page