“Hello my rainstorm buddies,” Paul Simon welcomed us four songs into the second night, last night, last concert in the States ever (maybe, that’s what he was hinting at with the Times earlier this week) right smack dab in the middle of the village Paul was born in, Forest Hills, Queens, hysterically misspelled on his tour tee shirt. It was a personal slip sliding away apocalyptic end to one of the 20th Century’s great pop star careers. A career that took him from Everly Brother wannabe to seminal folk duo, to singer songwriter SNL regular, to World Music star, to elder statesman, and ended right there at Forest Hill Stadium with Paul doling out “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, in the teardrops between a torrential rainstorm.
Last night wasn’t like Governors Ball, it is fair enough to expect decent weather on the first day of July, and if you don’t get it call it an act of God, and button down the hatches. Less the rain it rains every day and more a good day ain’t got no rain. HOWEVER, it was a terrible downpour that flooded the ground, destroyed my cell for one, had people crowded anywhere with a roof, even while ankle deep in water, and the management not giving one single update. Nothing. Not a sausage. They forgot the New York subway lesson: tell people stuck in a train what is happening and they will wait patiently, don’t and you’re gonna have some unhappy passengers. We got drenched and we didn’t hear a word. Look, if it was Woodstock we could all get naked roll in the mud and fuck, but this was mostly an older crowd, 70 year old women ruled: I have no problem watching 70 or 80 year old women fucking, but it is certainly an acquired taste. And even if it wasn’t, as they trudged out through the stadium like licked puppy dogs, bedraggled, tired, just wanting safe harbor, and a refund, I don’t think the women were in the mood. It would be a twenty minute walk through thunder and rain and more rain till they found the former, they’d never find the latter,
Waiting under a roof, but in water, I heard an usher being told that if an audience member asked, tell them Paul will be performing and so I hung out because I wanted to see what they would do with the so strict the Who were thrown off stage, 10pm curfew. Well, not to keep you in suspense (the subway concept again), Simon and his excellent band of world class session man and World Music magistrates played right through it with impunity. And then, at 1030pm, it started raining again, but they played right through that as well, while youngsters with more good humor than I’ll ever have again, stomped and dance through “Diamonds On The Sole Of My Shoes” and “You Can Call Me, Al”.
It was a good set, whose finer points were lost on me as I shivered and stuck to the bench in my wringing wet jeans. I noted in passing that the passing of time, the one two shot of “Slip Sliding Away” and “Mother And Child Reunion”, was, as it is on Paul’s latest album Stranger To Stranger, more text and less subtext. I noted that songs were rearranged for his narrowed vocal range, but it didn’t hurt anything much. Of the three songs from the new album he performed, two are excellent. The Afrikaner Paul was there, the ones where Garfunkel was missing were there, the there goes rhymin Simon was there (actually, he didn’t play those songs as such, substituting “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” for “Bridge”, but you get the concept). If you are a fair weather fan (I’ve got a million of em), at least half the set were songs you really wanted to hear, and if you are a huge fan, as I am, the only problem you might have is the title track of his newbie.
I could nit pick the setlist (at least give us “Peace Like A River” -since that is what Forest Hills Stadium had turned into) but not Paul’s performance. I have seen him many times, but last night he was more engaged than usual , he moved better than Ian Brown did on Thursday, communicated better as well. Musically, it was subtle without being boring and it was a touch wasted because between being more drenched than wet and the threat of rain, sprinkles all night long, the audience kept getting distracted. But even so, the sound was thoughtful without being quiet, all of it was sophisticated yet with a true New Yorker passion: it wasn’t fragile, rather it exploded in color and shade, a melting pot but a melting pot like this place, where the ethnic accent can change in the middle of a city block.
But for all the pleasures, Paul should have postponed it to today. The 20 somethings were fine, but this 60 year old wasn’t enjoying himself, lord knows those septuagenarian, octogenarian,were miserable. It was the end of the US tour, the end of the night, the end of a career, the end of a life, the end of the world, nearer the destination, we slipped and slid away.
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