Vincent Nguini - Guitar
Bakithi Kumalo - Bass
Steve Gadd - Drums
Mark Stewart - Guitars, Cello, Saxophone, selfmade instruments
Robin diMaggio - Drums, percussion
Tony Cedras - Accordeon, Keyboard, Guitars
Andy Snitzer - Saxophone, Synthesizer
Harper Simon - Guitar
Adrian Simon - Keyboards
You feel Paul understands himself now more than ever before. He has reached the shore of his musical journey. His brilliance is astonishing sometimes, particularly exemplified in the purity of his lyrics and the flow of his chords and tunes. I respect this man and his music so much, it shaped my muscial knowledge. Thanks Paul,
The last time Paul Simon graced a London stage was two years ago, when he deigned to become half of Simon and Garfunkel one last time and crooned the old hits in front of 50,000 fans in Hyde Park.
An audience one hundredth the size was lucky enough to see the man at close quarters last night, playing solo in the capital for the first time in six years. It was an hour-long set for competition winners that will be broadcast on Radio 2 a week tomorrow, but he was generous enough to do much more than simply plug his new album.
Opening proceedings with the casual a capella of Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, the 64-year-old singer-songwriter went on to revisit numerous corners of his extensive career.
His magnificent five-piece band confidently recreated the complex African funk of several tracks from Grammy-winning Graceland, as well as stripping back to a bare acoustic sound for the vintage folk of The Boxer.
Dressed as though preparing to deal with some bedding plants, Simon seemed cold and serious as he strolled around the stage, making the occasional florid hand gesture when he wasn´t strumming his guitar.
He barely spoke between songs, which might explain why he does not seem to make the personal connection that wins some musicians of his generation fevered adoration. This crowd gave him more of a kind of awed respect.
One fan dared to shout a request, for Simon´s new single. Unfortunately he mistakenly called it Father And Son - a Cat Stevens title - rather than Father And Daughter.
Including that gushing ode to Simon´s little girl, four new songs were aired from the imminent Surprise, his first solo album since 2000´s You´re The One.
They lacked a dimension here without Brian Eno´s mellifluous production, full of subtle shimmering sound effects (described as a ´sonic landscape´ in the sleeve notes), but Outrageous was a strong highlight. A soothing, fluid chorus was countered by scattershot funk in a verse so packed with smart lines Simon was almost rapping.
That pure, angelic singing voice, unscathed by the years, was what made the frequent striking lyrics stand out as though written in neon. The new tracks were as strong on imagery as ever.
´We watched the fireworks ´til they were fireflies´ in How Can You Live In The Northeast?, a song about America´s immigrants; ´A mother murmurs in twilight sleep and draws her babies closer´ in the mournful ballad Wartime Prayers.
But there was genuine fun to be had too, in the tumbling tomtoms of Cecilia and the milkman whistling of Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard. Simon may only need to please himself at this stage in his career, but thankfully he has not forgotten how to please a crowd, even one as small as this.