The farewell tour has become something of a fixture on the concert scene. The Who and the Eagles have had about three each, but they keep chugging along. Paul Simon announced earlier this year that this tour would be his last. I’m always skeptical, but if this Simon’s last hurrah he’s definitely going out in style.
Simon brought his huge ensemble of musicians to the Wells Fargo Center this Saturday. I was a little concerned that the arena setting would overwhelm the sometimes challenging music, but I needn’t have worried. We were treated a 26 song show by a true American master.
The set included five Simon and Garfunkel songs and five from Graceland. The rest were samplings of all phases of Simon’s solo career, some played as originally recorded and some significantly rearranged. The huge band transformed into a chamber ensemble for “Renee and George Magritte..” “Can’t Run But” and a beautiful “Bridge”.
He played just about all the songs that were requirements (no “Mrs. Robinson” or “Only Living Boy”, but who’s quibbling). To my mind some of the best moments were not those but the more unexpected ones. “Wristband” is a wonderfully written song propelled by a fantastic bass line. Another Rhythm of the Saints song, “Cool Cool River” was thrilling as the horn section blasted into the final verse.
Simon’s band was amazing – most of the musicians seemed to play more than one instrument, and exceedingly well. They easily transitioned from the folkiest numbers to the African rhythms of his later work.
Paul Simon is definitely in the pantheon of American songwriters along with Dylan, Springsteen, Goffin and King, Taylor, and a few others. His work has remained vital and interesting over the years. As I listed to “American Tune”, I was struck by the prescience of the line “ I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong”.
My first Simon show was on the Rhythm of the Saints tour in 1991, a few days after his Central Park gig. It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. I have seem him many times since then, and this show was the best after that first time.
2. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
3. The Boy in the Bubble
4. Dazzling Blue
5. That Was Your Mother
7.Mother and Child Reunion
8. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
9. Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War.
10. Can’t Run But
11. Bridge Over Troubled Water
13. Spirit Voices
14. Obvious Child
15. Questions for the Angels
16. The Cool Cool River
17. Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes
18. You Can Call Me Al
20. Still Crazy After All These Years
21. Late in the Evening
22. Homeward Bound
24. The Boxer
25. American Tune
26. Sound of Silence
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