Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) and Glen Hansard share many things in common. Soulful, singers. Incredible storytellers. And both of them made me cry in one evening.
Earlier this year KCRW was approached by the manager for both artists and he asked if we would be interested in hosting an acoustic show where they would share a stage, which was met with an immediate “YES!”
The evening took place at The Sayers Club in Hollywood, a little bit fancier than KCRW’s normal digs, with a flip of a coin to decide who would go first, followed by an unprecedented performance by the pair together. I was actually there at soundcheck watching them work out two covers to play, one by The Faces, the other by Willie Nelson. Watching them play together was a musical dream come true.
They are such different musicians, not just in how they use their voice — Sam with his deeply emotional and moving power and Glen with his raw passionate expression – and their guitars, Sam’s pristine and Glen’s beat up, weathered and worn, but also their physical presence, Sam the bearded sage and Glen the Irish busker. Completely different, yet equally as commanding. It’s quite a sight seeing it all on one stage.
The musicians are not only friends, but clearly in awe of each other, with Glen saying “I want to be a better musician when I’m around Sam” and Sam referencing Glen’s “golden vocal chords”.
Sam started the show with a brand new song and then put out a call for requests, only to find the 200-person audience knew his catalogue much better than expected. He played a few and deferred a few, joking most people think musicians sit around all day practicing but he prefers to write new songs instead. I think of Sam as a shy poet, but he was a bundle of laughs all night, including when a glass broke and he said “uh oh” mid-lyric and when a guy shouted “I love this song!” a few chords in and he answered “thanks for coming, dad”.
But it was when he sang “Tree by the River” acapella that I saw tears welling in a lot of eyes. It was immensely beautiful. He is such an incredible wordsmith and getting lost in his words was an honor.
Glen grabbed the audience immediately and didn’t let go for a second, entertaining us with a story about a chance meeting with Marilyn Manson when a string broke on his guitar (which elicited a collective groan from the crowd. It was that kind of night). Fans called out for favorites from his solo debut like “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” and “Maybe Not Tonight”. He said the latter featured a musician named David Mansfield, who he had met in a cafe in NYC the morning before it was recorded. He invited him to the studio only to find out he had toured with Bob Dylan as a teenager.
Glen seems to have that magical magnetism where he attracts good people. In fact, he told the crowd that he’s had a relationship with KCRW since 1992 when he met former DJ Deirdre O’Donaghue in Ireland and she invited him to crash on her couch in LA. He took her up on it for almost a month. He even was a busker on the 3rd Street Promenade, and reflected on how “playing here tonight feels kind of amazing because I’m still doing it”. He treated us to a few brand new songs – “Mercy”, “Letting Me Down Again”, “Renata”, as well as a couple songs from “Once”, before leading us in a Dublin sing–a-long to end the night.
It was an incredible musical evening filled with laughter and tears. They captivated our hearts and seemingly didn’t want to stop playing. (As soon as we were done, they opened the club up to their normal Friday night audience and you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Sam Beam standing quietly in the corner of a dark Hollywood nightclub with hip hop music blasting.)
It was not filmed or recorded in any way, but perhaps they had enough fun that they will one day take it on the road. You never know!
p.s. Glen in about to start work on his next album and Iron and Wine’s 5th full length “Ghost on Ghost” is out April 15!
Partial Set List — Sam Beam and Glen Hansard Acoustic Show for KCRW
Jesus the Mexican Boy
Low Light Buddy
Grace for Saints and Ramblers
Tree by the River
Boy with a Coin
Mercy (new song)
Lover Don’t Leave Me Waiting
Maybe Not Tonight
Letting Me Down Again (new song)
Say it to Me Now
Renata (new song)
Sam and Glen together
Debris – The Faces
Blue eyes — Willie Nelson