Iron & Wine and Calexico Make The Perfect Pair For A Valentine’s Day Soundtrack


I am never going that long without a show again. Sure, moving into my new townhouse was exciting and it was nice to have some time to get the place actually looking like a house rather than just a bunch of boxes but I’ve been having mad withdrawals symptoms. From being restless to getting a full eight hours of sleep to getting short tempered, something was off these past couple of days and I knew it was because I hadn’t been to a show. Driving unfamiliar roads to get to downtown Saint Paul for Calexico and Iron & Wine was a little weird but as soon as I parked in my normal parking lot and walked the few blocks to the beautiful theatre, all was well and all felt back to normal.

Madison Cunningham kicked the night off with a set that could only be described as stunning. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t completely surprised when the headliner thanked her and mentioned that she is only 22 years old. For being so young, Madison clearly has an old soul and more talent than some musicians that are over double her age. Her set was full of emotion and passion which kept me completely captivated even though her mostly soft songs aren’t my typical jam. There was a power in her voice that demanded attention with ease but there was also a sense of pain and hurt it in that made her come off as much older than she actually is. With the help of a small backing band, Madison’s set was the perfect opening act for a Valentine’s Day show and she had the couples around me swaying along to the slow and steady beats. 

Madison’s beautiful set was the perfect segway into the genius set that was the collaboration of Iron & Wine and Calexico. If I’m being 100% honest, I was more there for Iron & Wine and was a bit confused when I heard that it was a collaborative set instead of just two separate sets but I was intrigued. If I was a diehard fan, I probably would have known that these musicians go way back and even put an album out together last year but I didn’t so I was excited to see what I got and more than impressed as the set kicked off and everything just felt and sounded right.

Iron & Wine is Sam Beam. He’s a genius and I love him. No, just kidding, but seriously, Sam’s songwriting is brilliant and his guitar playing is perfect. He occassionaly plays with a full band but I prefer his solo stuff. For just being a guy with a guitar and microphone, Sam has power and passion behind him like you wouldn’t believe and that’s what made me fall head over heels for his music years ago. I’m less familiar with Arizona based Calexico but after seeing them live last year, I knew that I was in for a treat. Their unique blend of indie meets Americana meets Tex-Mex has always intrigued me and the fact that it was such a stark difference from when I was used to from Iron & Wine was sure to leave me with a collaboration that would quickly become an obession. 

The stage was set with a smattering of instruments across the entirety along with Sam’s signature glass of wine on a stool. As the houselights went down, the audiences chatter turned into a roar of applause and, without hesitation, their set started and whisked me away to a world where there was no stress about homeowndership or work. Their nearly twenty song set was a perfect balance of Calexico and Iron & Wine songs along with  a couple of tracks from their collaborative album and some other covers sprinkled in including an amazing rendetion of Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”. The most brilliant element of this musical partnership is the fact that if you didn’t know there were two different acts being represented on stage, you could have easily believed that this was just a standard band doing what they do every night. The fusion of the two sounds was flawless even though, in my mind, the two acts come from very different sides of the spectrum.

Did I get to hear the one Iron & Wine song I wanted to hear? No, I didn’t and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken over that but the fact that I didn’t even realize I hadn’t heard my song until I had gotten home says everything. I didn’t care what the musicians on stage were playing because they had easily taken me to the place I wanted to be which was out of my own head. I wasn’t the only one who was just letting myself get lost in the music. It was easy to tell that the audience members around me were doing the same thing. Although it wasn’t as clear as it is at a show where people are moving around to the beat, it was easy to see that everyone was truly capitvated. They had their eyes glued to the stage with the occasional sway to a beat and the constant smile on their face. All you had to do was look around and you could feel the love in the room and, for a Valentine’s Day show, it was absolutely perfect. 

Friday night was my first show in over a week and, because of that, I had very high standards for the night. Thankfully Iron & Wine, Calexico and Madison Cunninham exceeded all of those expectations and then some. What a beautiful and perfect night to getting back into concerts with.