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Oldies But Goldies: Paul Simon Reopens The Beacon Theatre In 2009


It is 8pm at night and I’ve been nursing a toothache for a coupla weeks and I am up to my eyeballs in every painkiller I can find. I am leaning at the front of the stage and nodding in an out waiting for the concert to begin. I have lost all sense of time but four hours I will have seen one of the greatest concerts of my life, Titus Andronicus and Los Campesinos at Bowery Ballroom February 15th, 2009.

But I’m not posting about that concert, I am posting about the very day before: February 14th, 2009. Still a toothache, still a miss, and still cursing my luck at a concert I’ve spent a fortune on getting tix for is going to see me more dead than deadly. I had seen Simon in 00 during the “You’re The One” and found him extremely uninspired though I liked the album a lot so my expectations were mixed for this night but he had me at hello: the first song was the New York centric “Gumboots” -“I was having this discussion in a taxi heading downtown,” the song begins, “rearranging my position on this friend of mine who had a little bit of a breakdown”. Simon looks his age but looks good, he has cut off the lick of black hair he sported in 00 and now he is gray and a little shaggy and it suits him and his body is lean and muscular given his age and he leans all the way into the song -he leans all the way into the night. The next song is another track off “Graceland” and he would end up playing four. The band is large and is impressive and on the money all the way through. Around the middle of the first set he puts us to sleep with some Brazilian stuff but he steadies himself with a rousing “Born At The Right Time,” the best song off the ho hum “Surprise,” “Father and Daughter” and a huge singalong to the classic “You Can Call Me Al” to end the first half.

At the time it seemed to matter this was the second night of the grand reopening of the Beacon Theatre though with the passing of time, who cares? As soon as Comcast bought it the Beacon had stopped being the Beacon. I remember when the Beacon had no online ticketing and everything was cash at the box office and of course the prices were around a tenth of what it is today. The carpets were threadbare and the gorgeous mosaic of scultures needed a lick of paint or something but there was something golden age about the place. Well, the Dolan’s gave the Beacon a face lift and the sound was pristine, precise, and awesome but the room looked like a French brothel all deep reds and the prices were sky high. Worth it? Yeah, the sound is so good it is my favorite place to see a band -even more than the Comcast owned Radio City Music Hall. I would see Van Morrison there a coupla months after Simon and I have never seen better than his performance of Astral Weeks from “Slim Slider” thru to the end and part of that was absolutely the sound.

Simon has always needed to do something with his “The Capeman” songs and perhaps an “in concert” similar to the Encore series at City Center is one very good way to keep them out there till they can be re-staged. Certainly they are too good to be forgotten and they are a highlight for me, if not for the rest of the audience, tonight. Their lost before if they can’t get behind songs as remarkable as “Satin Summer Nights” and “Bernadette” they don’t deserve em. Anyway, they are prolly waiting and hoping for Art Garfunkel to show up again and he doesn’t and who cares? It is almost bad manners to want anymore than this and I’d rather end with “Still Crazy After All These Years” .

It is as if Paul has steadied himself for the long hall home and honed his enormous gifts as an entertainer which, while never entropic, seemed even at this late date, to have reached another level.

Gumboots / Boy in The Bubble / Slip Slidin’ Away / Proof / Train in the Distance / Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard / Only Living Boy in New York / O Vendedor de Sonhos* / Spirit Voices* / Born at he Right Time* / Cool Cool River / Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes / You Can Call Me Al // Satin Summer Nights** // Bernadette** // Quality** // Adios Hermanos** // Mrs Robinson // Loves Me Like A Rock // Northeast // Love in Hard Times // Graceland // Late In The Evening /// Zydeco /// Boxer /// Still Crazy

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