Breathing new life into old hits
By John Aizlewood, Evening Standard 13.11.06
Golden oldie: Paul Simon embraces the past at Wembley
Still love him like a rock
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A curtain pulled across the rear third of Wembley Arena may have been grim testament to Paul Simon´s commercial decline, but one of the cornerstones of 20th Century popular music (in prosaic truth, a munchkin dressed as a Kwik-Fit fitter) was never going to be artistically denied.
What, though, to do with a richly varied 49-year back catalogue that stretches from winsome folk to his current incarnation as the United States´ slightly bewildered intellectual conscience?
Simon´s answer was simple. For 150 mesmerising minutes, he embraced his past, but breathed new life into what could so easily have sounded moribund.
Hence, a startling and startlingly effective reinvention of Mrs Robinson as threatening, staccato Talking Headsian funk. It was as if Art Garfunkel had never existed.
Elsewhere, the formerly never-ending Bridge Over Troubled Water was reincarnated as a short statement of defiance; The Boy In The Bubble as a funereal lament and Late In The Evening as Lionel Richie´s All Night Long (All Night). Even Simon´s on-stage coldness and his craven collaboration with the heavy-handed security that prevented would-be dancers from standing until late on did not wholly extinguish the reverent atmosphere.
Instead, he and his lissom septet including two fabulous drummers grappled with cajun, zydeco, folk, jazz (Still Crazy After All These Years is now a torch song), rock and Simon´s beloved African jangle without a hint of contrivance. And when Simon sang Homeward Bound wholly alone, for a moment at least, Wembley Arena felt like a Greenwich Village coffee shop.