Paul Simon comes and goes with ´Graceland´By Keith Harris
For The Inquirer
Older pop stars often serve up predictably balanced career overviews in concert - that´s a safe way to keep everybody happy, after all.
But it also keeps a musician from sharing his own perspective on what parts of his past he values most.
Paul Simon´s Saturday night show at the Borgata was indeed career-spanning, ranging from his earliest ´60s hits to material from his newest album, Surprise.
But the set left little doubt what music Simon considers the center of that body of work: his 1986 fling with South African music, Graceland.
Simon opened with two songs from that disc: the flirtatious ´Gumboots´ and a thumping version of ´The Boy in the Bubble.´ He encored with Graceland´s ´You Can Call Me Al,´ maybe pop music´s most joyous midlife crisis, featuring what may be its most nearly impossible bass solo as well.
Simon´s remarkably versatile seven-piece band, marked by liberal doses of accordion and saxophone, established a consistent rhythmic mood.
The music sounded all of a piece, from the pop-reggae of ´Cecilia´ and the Latin-flavored ´Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard´ to quizzical new cuts like ´Outrageous´ and ´How Can You Live in the Northeast?´
Simon, who had canceled the previous night´s show because of illness, confessed that he still wasn´t 100 percent, and his focus did seem fuzzy at times.
But he´s still a seasoned pro onstage. During an unexpectedly quiet moment, he paused to ad-lib, ´What? No cell phones?´ When the audience barraged him with requests, he quipped, ´What is this, the U.N.?´
Maybe you favored the folkie poetry of his Simon & Garfunkel years, sampled here with a rhythmically tricked-up ´Mrs. Robinson´ (complete with Bo Diddley-style instrumental interlude) and a closing version of ´The Boxer,´ distinguished by opener Jerry Douglas´ masterful slide guitar.
I´ve always been partial to the ´70s solo cuts he played, like ´Slip Slidin´ Away´ and ´Still Crazy After All These Years,´ which keep quiet despair at bay with ironic humor and sing-along melodies.
But there was no mistaking that the rhythms Simon embraced on Graceland still rejuvenate him to this day.