It’s a cold November night as I take the trip over to Manchester to catch Calexico and Iron & Wine on their Years To Burn tour, a tour which has taken them across Europe and North America stretching 48 shows since June this year.
The city is bustling, with only a stones throw away from the venue both Liam Gallagher and Yungblud are in town ploughing their trade at MEN and O2 Ritz respectively, a stark contrast from tonight’s performance which is, dare I say, a little more reserved, held in the magnificent setting of Bridgewater Hall, home to the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata Orchestras.
Before things start, it’s announced that Calexico and Iron & Wine have been nominated for next year’s Grammy Awards in not one but two individual categories, Best Americana Album for Years To Burn and Best American Roots Performance for the song Father Mountain
So onto the support for this evening, warming up the crowd tonight is Lisa O’Neill, an singer songwriter from Cavan in Ireland, during a 6 song set she captivated the audience with songs such as Violet Gibson, telling the story of the Irishwoman who tried to assassinate Mussolini in 1926, and Rock The Machine about the loss felt by Dublin’s dockers in the face of their industry’s mechanisation, although these may sound bleak and harsh subjects to cover they are delivered with such heartfelt humour.
After a small interlude, the lights go down and it’s not long until John Convertino, Joey Burns, Jacob Valenzuela and Sam Beam take to the stage, after smile and a wave they open proceedings with the brilliant Follow The Water, from 2019 album Years To Burn. Beam announces that they’ll be playing new material along with old, ‘it’s gonna have that all antiquey smell’.
History Of Lovers follows from 2005s In The Reins, with the great lyric “Coddle some men, they’ll remember you bitterly, fuck ’em, they’ll come back for more” I do love Sam’s writing, the imagery he projects in his lyrics are so on key as he takes the listener on a journey of his thoughts.
It’s crazy to think it’s been 14 long years since Calexico and Iron & Wine first joined creative forces on the fantastic 7-track EP, In The Reins. They’ve obviously kept close friends ever since but due to their regularly conflicting schedules it’s taken time to reconvene, it may have taken some time, but good things certainly come to those to wait.
One of the great things to see is that Calexico and Iron & Wine are changing their setlist each night, keeping things interesting and fresh for maybe fans seeing them more than once on the tour or more importantly for themselves, a good way of challenging each other rather than being more scripted.
Red Dust is up next which is slightly reworked from the version that appears on In the Reins, this highlights their desire to give the audience a twist and something a bit unexpected. It also featured a long, jazz fused bass solo courtesy of Sebastian Steinberg on his upright bass, at this point I was in position in front of the stage on my knees trying not to obstruct the seated folk behind me, it may have lasted two minutes or so but felt like ten.
They move things swiftly on with Father Mountain, confirming why it’s been nominated for Best American Roots Performance at next January’s Grammy Awards ceremony. The brilliant and one of my favourites, 16, Maybe Less is next, again with such poignant lyric. I met my wife at a party, when I drank too much. My son is married and tells me we don’t talk enough. Call it predictable, yesterday my dream was of you.
Flores Y Tamales’ from Calexico’s ninth studio album, The Thread That Keeps Us and complete with some wonderful accordion playing from Robert Burger. There then follows the regular section of the tour whereby Sam Beam and Joey Burns each choose an Iron & Wine and Calexico song for the other to play. Tonight’s selection is Naked As We Came and Bisbee Blues.
During this there’s a bizarre shout from a chap seated accouple of rows from the stage that he cannot hear, continuing to say that he’s even been to the bathroom? It begs belief why it’s took him an hour into the show to voice his concern but both Beam and Burns turn to each other, smile and respond with some gentle humour, Beam even going on to say that he’ll speak louder and maybe later we can take a bathroom break together.
Lisa O’Neill, returns to the stage to join Beam and Burns for a beautiful rendition of The Everly Brothers, All I Have To Do Is Dream. The draw the evening to a close with Midnight Sun and finally Prison On Route 41.
It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the city of Manchester, entertained by some of the greatest musicians and songwriters there are in the business.
You can catch Calexcio and Iron & Wine on the rest of their UK tour below.
Sat, Nov 23 – Royal Festival Hall, London, United Kingdom (w/Lisa O’Neill)
SUN, Nov 24 – De La Warr Pavillion, East Sussex, United Kingdom (w/Lisa O’Neill)
Live Review & Photography of Calexico and Iron & Wine at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 20th November 2019 by Mark Bromham. To view more of Mark’s work please visit his photography site here: www.howayman.photography/livemusic