The Great Outdoors
Paul Simon clearly in tune with nature
The Great Outdoors
He´s really a city guy, but the thought of performing in upstate New York on the Fourth of July turned him humble. To be honest, Paul Simon wasn´t performing just anywhere Upstate. He was in Cooperstown, the prettiest village around. What makes it so?
We might start with old homes, well-restored and maintained. We could add Otsego Lake, a forest-lined jewel where the Susquehanna River begins and the lofty and pillared Otesaga Hotel gazes down on its smooth hazy surface. Throw in the Baseball Hall of Fame, classy, old and of brick, and next door there is Doubleday Field. Baseball´s Mecca for many, this intimate park features a covered grandstand built in 1939, a view from the bleachers of forested hills and a church steeple nestled among them. On the eve of July 4, it also played host to a man as iconic in his line of work as Babe Ruth was in his, slugging homers. Ruth also performed at this village ball park, but Paul Simon made mention of only one Yankee while performing.
´Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you,´ sang Simon, as an evening shower parted and charcoal clouds blended with orange ones burnished by sun. Standing below him, a few thousand faithful gazed up at the legend, looking fit in blue jeans, wine-red T-shirt and white baseball cap. Thousands more sat on bleachers surrounding the stage, swathed by dusk in no hurry to darken.
Just moments before, Simon quietly had said, ´I have performed many times on the Fourth of July, but to be in Cooperstown on the Fourth is unbelievable.´ Then he rolled out a who´s who of tunes confirming his status as one of his generation´s great songwriters. Blended with powerful works from his new album, ´Surprise,´ they included ´Slip Slidin´ Away,´ ´Graceland,´ ´The Boxer,´ ´Boy In The Bubble,´ ´Cecilia,´ ´Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,´ ´Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard´ and ´Still Crazy After All These Years.´
While he sang them, it somehow got sneakily darker. A half-moon popped up, sometimes blurred, turning orange by clouds. The occasional chimney swift or ring-billed gull cruising the field made a last pass and turned for the roost. Colorful spotlight sprays -- red, white and blue -- aimed at Simon grew steadily brighter.
And he sang a few times about nature. From ´The Only Living Boy In New York,´ he informed us he gets all the news he needs from the weather report. From ´How Can You Live In The Northeast?´ off his new album he asked, ´How can you live in the Northeast? How can you live in the South? How can you build on the banks of a river, when the flood water pours from the mouth?´ He ended his concert with ´Bridge Over Troubled Water,´ which seemed apt in our flood-weary world.
Anyone down and out needing a friend on this night found one up on that stage in Paul Simon.