Simon adds a new generation of fans
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 29, 2006 12:00 AM
Decked out in basketball shorts and sneakers, 10-year-old Race Morel excitedly sat between his parents waiting to see his first concert.
The mop-top blond lists modern punk-rock band Green Day among his favorite artists, but he went to the Maricopa County Events Center Wednesday night to see another favorite artist: Paul Simon.
Simon, the more famous half of the ´60s duo Simon & Garfunkel, is touring to promote his latest recording, Surprise, which hit the store shelves in May. Steel guitar wizard Jerry Douglas, one of Nashville´s most in-demand instrumentalists, opened the show for Simon. advertisement
Roughly 6,000 fans attended the event in Sun City West.
Morel and busloads of other young fans peppered themselves into a baby-boomer crowd. Under dim lights, it became hard to decipher young from old, as concertgoers swayed, danced and clapped, eventually spilling into the aisles.
´Your parents done good by you,´ 58-year-old Andy McDonald told two 19-year-olds sitting behind her.
´I always say to my son that the greatest age was the silver generation,´ McDonald said, referring to the older generation´s music that young fans came to appreciate Wednesday.
At 64, Simon no longer graces teen pop-music charts. But a unique blend of parental influence, self-discovery and pop-culture recycling seemed to make everything old new again.
Some of Wednesday´s baby-faced fans attached Simon´s music to specific memories of their parents. Melanie Wareing, 24, of Prescott, bought her mom, Beverly Gloden, 45, a ticket to the show.
´(My mom) seriously used to boogie to Paul Simon,´ Wareing said, recalling her childhood.
Wareing and other young fans cited their parents as the architects of their musical tastes.
In an interesting twist on the multigenerational theme, steel guitarist Douglas´ son, Patrick Sheehan, of Nashville, strolled the arena shooting pictures of the show.
´As a kid, music was enjoyment for me and it put food on the table. I listened to everything, from the Beatles to ZZ Top,´ Sheehan said. Then he paused. ´No, wait. Frank Zappa, that´s a better ´Z.´ ´
Now the bearded 21-year-old tours with his dad. On the road, he has met other older-generation artists such as John Fogerty and James Taylor, artists he was turned on to as a kid.
For other young fans, their own discoveries led them to the music that was popular decades ago. Twenty-four-year-old Karla Frederick got hooked on Simon at work. Her boss used to blast the artist when she worked as a theater actress.
Morel, the bubbly pre-teen, said he discovered both Simon and jazz trumpeter Miles Davis by himself, albeit while digging through his parents´ CD collection.
Others credit recent pop culture for the multigenerational infusion.
´Some of the newer movies lately, like Shrek and all that, take older music and make it popular again,´ said John Starslee, 46, of Phoenix.
The Shrek 2 soundtrack features David Bowie´s 1971 hit Changes. Tim Burton´s 2003 hit movie Big Fish features Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley songs. And 2005´s Walk the Line introduced Johnny Cash´s music to an audience of 20-somethings and younger.
Simon contributes to the soundtrack of Zach Braff´s 2004 movie Garden State. The film earned nods at the MTV Movie Awards and the Sundance Film Festival. The soundtrack, featuring Simon´s The Only Living Boy in New York from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album, won the 2005 Grammy for best movie soundtrack.
The artist played the popular tune as the second song in his encore set Wednesday night. Both the song´s younger and older fans cheered from their seats, the crowd singing the chorus as hundreds flocked to the stage.
Beau Burkholden, 27, of Phoenix, sipped beer from a plastic cup and enjoyed the show from the back of the center. He explained another important point.
´A true music lover knows the origin of new music. You know the influence Paul Simon has had on others,´ he said.
Burkholden´s buddy, Kevin Wilson, 26, of Chicago, leaned on a railing swaying to the beats blared by overhead speakers.
´I think Simon has influenced any acoustic artist who tells a story,´ he said.
Sheehan said he sees Simon´s influence in modern artists such as Beck and Umphrey´s McGee.
Though about 2,000 seats at the Maricopa Center remained empty for Simon´s show, it did not detract from the ambience. Instead, Simon appeared pleased and comfortable with his intimate audience. At the end, he leaned over the stage to shake audience members´ hands.
Brittney Heyns, 18, of Glendale, a recent Deer Valley High School grad, stretched out her hand to congratulate the artist. She missed Simon by inches.
She brushed her long brown hair back over her shoulder and threw a hand into the air.
´I still can´t believe I stood so close to him,´ she said.