July 12, 2006
Simon still solid after all these years
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
By KEVIN O´HARE
UNCASVILLE, Conn. - As he gets older, Paul Simon is proving that you can indeed have the best of both worlds.
At 64, the acclaimed songwriter is still able to be extremely creative on-stage and in the studio, and he´s still able to please fans who long for his classic material.
Performing at the Mohegan Sun Arena on Sunday, Simon showed how he´s managed to balance those two often-conflicting concepts. He does it by constantly shifting dynamics, playing with rhythms and phrasing, all the while working off a set list that´s as rich and deep as that of nearly any other American composer during the past half-century.
This is Simon´s first tour since he hit the road in 2003 and 2004 with his childhood friend and most famous musical collaborator Art Garfunkel. Simon is promoting ´Surprise,´ his first solo album since 2000, and he included several songs from the new disc during Sunday´s 21-song, one hour and 50 minute performance.
Playing before a near-capacity crowd and wearing a green shirt and a rust colored baseball cap, Simon led an exceptional seven-piece band into ´Gumboots,´ to kick off the night. It was one of several songs he selected from his most acclaimed solo work, ´Graceland.´
But a lot of the fun during this evening came when Simon gave sometimes slight and sometimes significant revisions to his older work. He added a distinct edge to ´The Boy in the Bubble,´ also from ´Graceland,´ the first of several vintage songs he was to rework this evening. ´Outrageous,´ which is filled with some amusing and universal themes about aging followed, before a subtle and beautiful ´Slip Slidin´ Away,´ which found Simon changing the vocal phrasing, against a muted trumpet background.
Other early set standouts included a vibrant, accordion-backed ´Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard;´ a dynamic take of ´How Can You Live in the Northeast?´ from the new album; a crisp, drum thundering ´Mrs. Robinson,´ with a notably rearranged melody and an ending that found Simon´s two drummers drifting into a beat that seemed to blend ´Bo Diddley´ and ´Not Fade Away;´ and a gospel-tinged ´Loves Me Like a Rock.´
There were some rarities included in the performance as well, and one of the best was the sweetly nostalgic tale of lost innocence, ´Duncan,´ from Simon´s eponymous 1972 album.
After a crowd-pleasing version of ´Graceland,´ the main attraction turned in a touching take of the Oscar-nominated ´Father and Daughter,´ and had plenty in the crowd dancing with a bass snappin´ run through ´Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.´
Simon´s voice was in superb form throughout the evening, and he shined while touching the high notes on ´Still Crazy After All These Years.´
As the show wound down, he closed the regular portion of his set with a wildly percussive run through ´Cecelia,´ before emerging for two encores.
The first encore includes three songs - a joyous, horn poppin´ ´You Can Call Me Al;´ a stunning, acoustic-based ´Only Living Boy in New York,´ which featured angelic harmonies; and another Simon & Garfunkel masterpiece, ´The Boxer,´ which featured his opening act Jerry Douglas on dobro. Simon returned for a second encore, which included the poignant and topical new song ´Wartime Prayers,´ before concluding the evening with the timeless ´Bridge Over Troubled Water.´
Acclaimed dobro player Douglas, best known for his work with Alison Krauss and Union Station, opened the night with a fine set of bluegrass flavored fare. Highlights included his jazz-based cover of Weather Report´s ´A Remark You Made,´ and the breakneck fast string-showcase ´Who´s Your Uncle,´ from Douglas´ latest album ´The Best Kept Secret.´