Iron and Wine

Americana folk hero Sam Beam shrinks the sell-out Open House marquee  

With a day passed since the Mumford & Sons takeover earlier in the week, the Custom House Marquee is a more comfortable temperature for Rhode Island four-piece The Low Anthem to join the festivities. Delivering an array of charming folk hymns, the group show their talents by swapping instruments with ease and share honey-dripped harmonies with an appreciative sit-down audience.

Selecting tracks from their 2009 breakthrough album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, the group perform beautifully, with the opener ‘To The Ghosts Who Write Books’, ‘Ticket Taker’ and ‘Charlie Darwin’ the most moving moments in a fluid set. The four huddle around just one microphone in centre stage - prettier still with the lights dimmed under the 'stars', a mass of fairy lights twinkling through the black cloth overhead.

The Providence act would be a tough one to follow for any singer-songwriter, but don’t let the carefully cultivated roadie-beard fool you, as Iron and Wine (real name Sam Beam) is not just any singer-songwriter.

Starting tonight’s performance with a jaw-dropping a capella version of ‘Flightless Bird, American Mouth’ - the closer on third studio album The Shepherd’s Dog and Twilight soundtrack - every nuance from Beam is absorbed by the reverently silent audience.

Mouths still gaping, Beam follows this with seven-minute epic ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ and a new song for fans to lap up, ‘Mouth Of The River’. Following on, the bearded one plays a great spread from his back catalogue, starting with The Creek Drank The Cradle’s inspiring ‘Upward Over The Mountain’, ‘Naked As We Came’ and the slow burning ‘Peace Beneath The City’ and ‘The Devil Never Sleeps’.

‘Mary-Anne’ and ‘Woman King’ keep mid-set attentions from waning and Beam’s vocals never sound more sun-kissed as on ‘Sodom, South Georgia’. Beam departs the stage to exit music, suggesting no encore is forthcoming, but he soon returns to play the softly sweet ‘Jezebel’ and ‘He Lay In The Reins’.

The audience wait for the final note on Beam’s touching songs to finish before showing their appreciation - a rare treat for Belfast audiences to be so respectful to such a subtle artist. An out-of-this-world live experience, under the marquee’s fabric-suspended galaxy of stars.