Review: A Dreamy Night with Iron & Wine and Andrew Bird

The hits just keep on coming at the Salt Shed. This past Friday the venue’s outdoor stage welcomed a sold-out crowd for a trio of wonderful performers for a cool evening of beautiful music. Meshell Ndegeocello. Iron & Wine, and Andrew Bird came together for a sharp lineup of gentle and touching songs.

Meshell Ndegeocello started things off with a gorgeous and encompassing set of straight jams. Ndegeocello’s sound knows no bounds, finding itself in so many mixes of genres that it can be dizzying. Elements of jazz, soul, rock and some very progressive sounds emanated from her band with ease, melding together in an interesting and satisfying set. Ndegeocello’s prowess on bass was only matched by her impressive band as every one delivered a nice and eclectic set of originals and covers.

Between sets, little white houses were placed throughout the stage. Sam Beam, the man behind the Iron & Wine moniker, stepped through this little popup neighborhood of light up homes and was met with a warm welcome by the Salt Shed crowd. Right off the bat, Beam hit the packed audience with “Such Great Heights,” his iconic cover of the Postal Service’s song. It’s a staple of many of his sets and an opening song that certainly catches people’s attention as its loving nature just draws you in. He thanked and credited Ben Gibbard for writing the song, a little nod to Gibbard’s band Death Cab for Cutie’s upcoming show at the venue in September.

Beam was delightful throughout his set, interacting with the crowd constantly. Whether it was bringing up the dreaded Dave Matthew Band’s bus incident (never forget) or the evil versions of Mayor Daley(s), Beam was joyfully joking around. Asking for loud growls and such from the crowd during “Evening on the Ground (Lilith’s Song)” and noting that only in Chicago does it seem normal for the crowd to be cheering such sad songs, Beam was simply having fun with the set and it definitely spread throughout the crowd. It was not a long one, lasting only eight songs but really packing in as much as he could. Later on in the evening, it made sense why his solo time on stage as so short.

Andrew Bird follow up that great short set of his own. Bird has this grace about him when he performs; he was exuding that immediately as he and the band stepped on stage. Seeing him strum and bow his violin throughout the set is a marvel, especially on openers “Make a Picture” and “Lone Didion” which ramped up like a dream. His face twists at turns before settling on a calm contemplative smile, feeling every bit of energy going into his performance. “Sisyphus” was a strong standout in the set, giving the audience a bright look at both his interpretation of the mythological story and Bird’s majestic handling of the song.

After “The Night Before Your birthday,” Sam Beam joined Bird on stage for the remainder of the set, the show coming together for a shared performance. The two played off one another so well, their familiar styles harmonizing for a lengthy collection of songs. “Flightless Bird American Mouth” kicked off this portion of the night. They split songs by one another pretty evenly, only playing one cover in the form of The Kinks’ “Strangers” (there was also a bit of “Just the Two of Us” in there, but it was certainly more the two fooling around than a full fledged cover). “Flightless Bird American Mouth” kicked off this portion of the night, which lasted for another eight songs of the duo serenading the happy crowd. Continuing the jokey nature of his set, Beam introduced himself as Fiona Apple for “Left Handed Kisses” as he took her spot in the duet. It worked flawlessly as the crowd laughed then melted away as the pair nailed the song.

The encore saw Bird return sans Iron & Wine for a couple of songs that are near and dear to his fans. “Pulaski at Night,” a Chicago song if there ever was one, and “Never Fall Apart” both rang out triumphantly in the open air of the Salt Shed. It was a celebratory end to a wonderful show.

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All photos by Julian Ramirez.

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Julian Ramirez
Julian Ramirez