The neck of my Guitar
Paul Simon, Summer Pops, Liverpool Liverpool Daily Post

IF PAUL SIMON could have been coerced into becoming a speechwriter for George Bush, the US congress would have passed a new law to give the President another term.

His lyrics, delivered in that captivating voice, could persuade the Mersey to flow backwards, and last night it persuaded those listening to demand two encores.

This was his second visit to the Summer Pops, but he had his first experience of a Liverpool audience many decades before that.

That was when he played at a folk club in the Cross Keys pub just a 10-minute walk away.

The imposing edifice of the Echo Arena provided a very different atmosphere to that more intimate gig of the 60s, on the same trip that he is believed to have written Homeward Bound at Widnes Station.

But although last night his grey hair was hidden under a hat, he had the same clear voice of the dark-haired young man with ambition that outstripped his experience.

With a set that ranged from his early compositions with Art Garfunkel through the 70s to Graceland and beyond, there was plenty here both for the folk fans and for those who had first been inducted into Simon´s catalogue through an enthusiasm for world music.

The unmistakable opening bars of a more than usually rhythmical Mrs Robinson won a cheer from the crowd, but it was Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard that started the dancing in the gangways that became a full-blown party by You Can Call Me Al and Still Crazy After All These Years in the first encore.

This abridged version of his back- catalogue demonstrated Simon´s music has not stood still.

Even some of the earliest tunes were given a new energy through the African and Latin American influences that defined the Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints albums, accompanied by a backing group on a multitude of instruments - even a washboard made an appearance at one point.

But the most memorable of all was the simplest - a bewitching performance of Sound of Silence, sung by Simon alone on stage with just an acoustic guitar.

´This is better than the tent but the tent had a great audience,´ he said of the Arena, after praising Liverpool´s Capital of Culture win.

´We´ll see how you compare when we get to the singing.´

Let´s hope we lived up to his expectations as much as he did ours.

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