I pedaled my way down to the Egyptian knowing full well that both Austin-based Iron and Wine and tour-mates Seattle-based Arthur & Yu made elegant and fascinating recordings but could I really sit still for their placid tunes in person? Turns out that if you get a chance to attend an anti-"big-rock" show you might find you're more patient than you thought.
What began as an intimate performance from Arthur & Yu (Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott) became livelier as the crowd grew. Arthur & Yu's set was mostly made up of tunes from their debut, In Camera, which is dreamy and lush and rife with '60s boy-girl harmonies. The songs came off beautifully thanks to the fine playing of the five people on stage. They all looked so content—even euphoric—while performing, especially singer and keyboardist Westcott; she'd look over at singer/guitarist Olsen with an honest-to-goodness smile and just shake her hips. Besides great music and great voices, another highlight from their set was when they gave a Wilco teaser with a few lines of "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart." Later, from behind their merch table, Wescott said they "really like Boise" and would love to come back.
By the time Iron and Wine came out, the Egyptian was packed and so was the stage. Eight musicians commandeered the stage with grand piano, violin, vibes, lap steel and congas, in addition to the guitar, bass and drums. Honcho Sam Beam's controlled voice and delicate finger-picking were on point all night. So were his players; every member of the band (including Beam's stern-looking sister Sarah on violin and vocals) had a foothold on the band's sonic map and played when and how they should have, a credit to Beam's maestro abilities. And the sold-out crowd was eating out of his hand. Rapt by one of the few tunes familiar to me, I recognized "Cinder and Smoke" in what seemed to be a new time signature. Between songs, Beam's nearly whispered banter had a few craning their necks for fear of missing a word. The crowd would cheer, to the point where Beam seemed to be getting flustered, surprised or maybe just entertained "What is that?" he asked. "Some kinda potato language?" Yeah he went there, but the crowd forgave him as soon as he said it. It seemed all he could manage. He had sealed the deal with this crowd. When the band was done, Beam obliged our demands and gave us a one man, one song encore.
A friend of mine deemed the crowd "rowdy" and I suppose it was, relatively speaking. Somehow the quintessential "chill" show turned, at times, raucous. However, even at the peak of excitement, people kept their seats and politely enjoyed two well-matched acts. Who knew civility could be so refreshing?