This was my first Paul Simon concert and I was rather impressed.
I am a somewhat of a student of the histroy of popular music, and
play guitar as well. Great mojo at this concert, the guy really
delivered. Outstanding guitar work from both of his guitar players.
I never disliked his music, but never went out and bought it either.
I remember Graceland being good. Paul Simon really won me over, and I
would paid a decent amount for a DVD of this concert. He has to be
one of the best songwriters ever. Great singer as well. Great concert.
Gotta go and get that new album. The kids (musicians especially) of today
would be do well to investigate this music.
I must admit, this was my first Paul Simon concert. However, before you make assumptions about me, rest assured that I have been waiting years for this experience.
First the venue... Chastain Park Ampitheater - snuggled in the heart of residential Buckhead - is not exactly my cup of tea, with it´s uncomfortable lawn setup, wine and cheese atmosphere, and general stuffiness. I prefer a more loose feel to my venues, but it did deliver in one very important aspect - one´s ability to bring in one´s own alcohol and food. Never underestimate the power of not paying eight dollars for flat draft beer!
Like clockwork, at 7:30 Jerry Douglass appeared to play his opening set. It was brief and generally unnoticed by the mostly 40-50 something crowd as they preferred rather to discuss which wine went better with their Havarti Dill.
When the lights went out, I knew it was time. I had been waiting years for this opportunity. I was dead set on him opening up with ´How Can You Live in The Northeast´, the first track from his new album ´Surprise´. I was so adament about it, so sure it would happen, that I almost jumped out of my shorts when I heard the opening riff to ´Gumboots´ start off the evening.
It was refreshing to hear new arrangements for old classics such as ´Boy in the Bubble´ (much slower, with different vocal arrangements) and ´Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes´ (same intro, but a decidedly more reggae influenced groove underneath the same melody).
Here´s a few things about this show that I found noteworthy...
1) The lack of dancing.
My wife and I are feverish dancers. This was perhaps never more evident than during this show. Everyone else, however, seemed content to sit on their laurels until they heard a song they knew. ´Cecilia´ brought even the stiffest fans out of their seats, but that outburst was definitely the exception rather than the rule.
2) The overall venue sound.
WAAAAAAY too quiet. In the lawn where we were, it was almost impossible to sing along without drowning out the band. That is unacceptable. The band sounded great, but you almost had to be quiet to hear them. Dancing and silence generally don´t go hand in hand.
3) Two kit players.
I went to this show expecting to see a full on Steve Gadd-O-Rama. What I got, however, was Mr. Gadd seemingly holding back to accomadate the other drumkit player. It would´ve worked much better to support Gadd with an auxiliary percussionist rather than a full kit player. He is arguably the best drummer in the world, why tie him down?
3a) The lack of horns.
I understand Paul Simon wanted to tour with a much smaller band this time around (see number 3)but there was a definite lack of horns. They didn´t play ´Late in the Evening´ which surely ruffled the feathers of the aforementioned hoity-toities. Guitarist Mark Stewart traded his axe for a sax on a few occasions, but it wasn´t nearly enough to fill out songs like ´Diamonds´.
Before playing ´The Only Living Boy in Mew York´, Paul made this comment...´So I´m going to play a Simon and Garfunkel song now. I don´t know how many of you realize this, but I was a part of that group. Tonight, I will be playing the part of Simon´. That´s as much as we got, but I was thrilled to get it.
Overall, I thought the setlist was well chosen, incorporating four songs from ´Surprise´, plus a few gems I thought I´d never hear - ´Slip Sliding Away´ and ´The Only Living Boy In New York´. I thought the band played great, a bit reserved, but still tight. Paul´s voice was on point all night, and it was great to see him so active on stage. I´d have to say - for a first timer, I sure hope it´s not my last.