SIMON´S STILL A SUCKER FOR THOSE AFRICAN BEATS
In among a set which served up so many highlights spanning over 40 years of music-making, it is a testament to Paul Simon´s muse that the most haunting moment was a new song.
Alone on stage, he picked hesitant yet beautiful fragments of acoustic guitar as he sang Wartime Prayers - from this year´s Surprise album - which, like so many of his songs, shakes a bewildered head at the state of the world. ´People hungry for the voice of God hear lunatics and liars,´ he pined.
It was like a throwback to the earnest folk songs Simon sang in the 1960´s, but there are somehow bigger questions and fewer answers now in his music. Simon´s songs long ago stopped telling stories, the disparate thoughts in his lyrics coming to resemble vivid, unmade jigsaws.
With all his serious-minded musings on life, love and mortality, it is tempting to think of Simon as a bit of a curmudgeon. And he did cut a dour figure as he arrived on stage - short, polo-shirted and with baseball cap, like an actuary on his way to play 18 holes. The thrill is that, at 65, Simon still plainly loves doing this, striking ludicrous Pete Townshend poses while toting guitars which, because of his tiny frame, looked the size of cellos.
There was a good ration of Simon and Garfunkel songs, though the so-so, strumalong version of Bridge Over Troubled Water confirmed the long-held suspicion that, in the ´divorce´, Garfunkel got custody of the best song.
Highlights from his early solo catalogue including dead-straight versions of Duncan, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Still Crazy After All These Years, the sax solo alone worth the price of admission.
But the continuing ripples of Graceland are still evident, not just in the five songs he played from that album - now 20 years old - but in the slippery African rhythms liable to pop up in any Simon song, alongside the jazz, the latin, the beloved doo-wop and every other style has has thrown into the melting pot over the years.
Among the encores was a lovely solo version of Homeward Bound, all concerned surely aware that this was a song written 41 years ago on Widnes railway station. ´Thank you so much. I wish I had something more eloquent to say, but I feel that deeply,´ Simon told us, and took his leave.