May 3, 2011
Paul Simon at first avenue. Paul FREAKING Simon at first ave. Delighted was I. Ok, so i'd seen simon and garfunkel at the excel center (yes, i know this is kind of against my law, but exceptions can be made for legacies) but there's a huge difference between simon and garfunkel and paul simon. (case not to be made here, but perhaps at a later date, suffice it to say, one can rip garfunkel's breathy choir vocals all one wants, but he added an unmistakable identity to the duo). and then you throw in first avenue (and cheap tickets for that matter) and you can pretty much guarantee i'll be arm banding up. Even shawn was (relatively) interested in this one.
Where to begin?
Well, for starters, we snagged the wall, right at the bottom of the ramp. So we avoided getting our shins scrapped by all the walkers (and i aint talking AMC here) and didn't have to peer over any humps. No opening act either (dunno what it is, but this year has had some of the dreadest opening acts that i can remember...whatever happened to the black angels opening for waterboys? nowadays it seems everyone with a couple songs on bandcamp think they have to be a headliner and we are stuck with opening acts that formed 3 weeks ago and have their debut ep coming out in a month)
The band was rocking. (although rocking chair might be appropriate too) They came out of the gate fired up and ready to play. That paul simon must be one hell of a pre game coach cos if his band can play their ten thousandth version of "Boy in the Bubble" with that much fire and enthusiasm (hell, i'd almost pay $15 just to see the guitarist/multi instrumentalist Mark Stewart mug his way through the show) he must be doing something right.
The new songs are great live. I've been a little (Hah!) underwhelmed with the last two simon discs, but So Beautiful or So What sure is good and those songs sounded amazing live. Paul's singing was the most assured and flawless on these songs (maybe no surprise here as he's writing for his current voice and tone) but "rewrite," "so beautiful or so what," and (especially) "getting ready for christmas day" sounded great and not for a second was i preferring some missed classic in their place. when you consider his canon, that is high praise.
The setlist was superb. A sprinkling of new songs and some choice cuts from his entire career (with a couple S&G diamonds for the souls thrown in). "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", "Slip Sliding Away" (with an interesting arrangement), "Kodachrome" and "Hearts and Bones" were just a few of the gems.
He even pulled out a number of covers; George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" was particularly lovely, but i appreciated the nods to Jimmy Cliff and Elvis too.
His voice held up pretty well considering he was almost 70. There were a few wobbles ("Only Living Boy in New York" unfortunately) and he was nowhere near in as fine a voice as he was during that X show) but i didn't mind. Clearly, he was a little more challenged on the older songs written with for his 30 year old voice than he was on the newer songs. And considering that, it was pretty remarkable that he had as much energy as he did for the length of the two hour show (with two encores). (although he did seem pretty damn tired by the end!)
Single best highlight of the show was when he came out solo for the first encore. We were treated to an amazing rendition of "The Sounds of Silence". I got goosebumps (watch here, thanks Rhi) I got goosebumps just watching it again. What a wonderful, wonderful, songferful show.