If anyone had any complaints about last Saturday's Iron and Wine/Calexico tour opener, it sure as hell wasn't that they didn't get their money's worth. The sold-out show clocked in at a marathon four and a half hours, making it somewhat forgivable when I looked down my row to find one attendee asleep in her chair. Mr. Sandman be damned! The show offered a bounty of rewards occasionally marked by passing lulls.
Following a previously unannounced opening set by Califone's Tim Rutili, Calexico took the stage for a somewhat atypical showing. The band mixed faithful originals ("Guero Canelo") and tried and true covers of Minutemen and Love songs with newly rearranged versions of old favorites, and a few new, previously unheard songs. But the overall vibe of the set was somewhat restrained compared to a typical Calexico show.
Next up was Iron and Wine, which retooled its sound even more dramatically. While Sam Beam and company indulged the audience with the expected acoustic songs--so skeletal that one could actually hear the saliva in Beam's mouth--a good portion of the set was devoted to stomping blues rave-ups that utilized electricity to its fullest, and had me wondering, "Just when did Iron and Wine become Canned Heat?"
Then, Mexican national and Tucson resident Salvador Duran scurried onto the stage equipped with his acoustic guitar, wooden stomping box, harmonica and gorgeously resonant voice, all of which he put to great use for the next half hour
Finally, members of Iron and Wine and Calexico joined Duran on stage for the night's most anticipated set: a re-creation of the grand collaboration found on the recently released joint EP In the Reins. Duran's contribution to set opener "He Lays in the Reins" drew the loudest response of the night, but the entirety of this segment of the show was especially inspired. In addition to exquisitely rendered songs from the EP, the rotating cast of musicians--which numbered from 10 to 12--tossed in a trio of cherry-picked covers: the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties," the Stones' "Wild Horses," which was accompanied by film images of carousel horses, and the Brill Building classic "Save the Last Dance for Me," which Beam dedicated to his father, who had flown in from the East Coast for the show.
For those who managed to stay awake, it was quite a treat.