Well, where to begin? The show was not perfect but it was absolutely spectacular all the same. I´ve never really listened much to S&G before but I´m definitely a fan now. I´ll just run through the night in chronological order I guess. Alain and I got to Acer Arena about an hour before the show started and managed to meet Gerard and Ben before the concert, which was great. On the way there it was quite amusing, they had special trains for the event and they were either playing S&G music really softly on the platform or else someone was playing it really really loudly on their iPod, I couldn´t tell which. Also I felt very out of place being the only person looking anywhere near 20, and a lot of people looked at me strangely too!
Anyway so the show started pretty much on time tonight. During the last minute tweaks Mark Stewart and Jamey Haddad came on stage for a few moments. The setlist was similar to the Sydney show last night ´“ i.e. Feeling Groovy was left out, which I regretted ´“ and Paul´s solos were back to the originals: Julio, Boy in the Bubble and Diamonds. Before I go through the songs, just some general comments ´“ firstly the audience was fantastic and Paul and Artie clearly appreciated it, which was wonderful. Their rapport with one another was also fantastic and very touching to see up close ´“ Paul in particular seemed to be a bit concerned for Artie´s voice and really encouraged him after several of the songs. Paul himself was playing and singing as well as ever, and smiled more than he normally does, he was having a great time on stage. Artie´s voice is, as mentioned in almost all the reviews, really shot through (I´m not sure whether he´s coming down with a cold or something?) but he kept up a huge effort which everyone seemed to find very admirable and endearing, and the crowd was extremely supportive even though everyone could tell that he no longer has the angelic voice. However I found that Paul´s voice / mike really drowned out Artie´s on most of the songs, and I think Ian said the same about the Brisbane concert. I wonder whether they did that on purpose so that Paul could make up for Artie´s lack of vocal strength.
So the opening numbers were pretty much the same. They were in a great mood right from the start and Paul smiled at his own lines like ´I have my books and poetry to protect me´ (I remember him referring to that as really psychotic writing in some interview in the 80s) I think they improvised a little for the Alice in Wonderland anecdote and Paul was hilarious. When Artie introduced him as the white rabbit he said something like (imagine his deadpan drawl) ´˜So´¦ I don´t care if I´m the white rabbit´¦ It was just playing a role´¦ Just the way we´re playing the role of Simon and Garfunkel tonight´¦ I´m playing the role of Paul Simon´¦ Sometime I get sick of playing Paul Simon, sometimes I think I´d like to play Art Garfunkel! Nah, not really, I wouldn´t want to play Art Garfunkel´¦´ Then he went on with the Death of a Salesman joke, saying that ´˜the only reason that I didn´t mind what role I played was because I had just come out of acting in The Death of a Salesman, so with the white rabbit I metaphorically leapt back into something more vibrant´ (I think that was most of what he said, correct me Gerard or anyone else if you remember any better!) Then Paul talked about how they were originally Tom and Jerry and said as an aside ´˜And I won´t tell you who was Tom and who was Jerry´¦ both names are equally humiliating´ Then he recollected that he had a 10000 person crowd before him so he added ´˜Except if there are any Tom´s or Jerry´s in the audience of course´¦ they they´re perfectly adequate names´. That was really funny too. So they played Hey Schoolgirl and Be Bop-A-Lula. In between Art reworked some of the dialogue from the 2004 DVD about scholars debating where the be-bop-a-luche-ba came from in Hey Schoolgirl. To pass from something so lighthearted and teenage pop-like to Scarborough Fair was divine. That´s another thing which really surprised me about the concert ´“ how riveting some of the songs really are. I mean, when I was at the solo concerts last year, with most of the songs you just can´t stop tapping your feet or clapping or dancing, but with so many of the S&G songs I just sat there transfixed, which was just as well because no standing was the way most of the concert went anyway. Also, lyrically I think the S&G period really do display some of Paul´s finest works, and when you´re sitting there listening carefully to every word, when they´re singing it right there before you, it really is something special. Paul always has great lyrics but I never really realized how amazingly poetic some of the S&G material is, it really is just beautiful and perfecly complements the sweetness of the music.
Sorry, coming back from the digression- Mrs Robinson, Not Fade Away and Slip Slidin´ were all really great. Arite´s solo set was quite impressive I thought, despite his voice barely holding up. As with all of the other numbers he mustered a huge amount of effort and you couldn´t help but appreciate the fact that he was trying so hard. I´ve never listened to any AG solo stuff before but it´s very pretty. As for his own composition Perfect Moment, lyrically it´s embarrassingly clichÃ©d but I quite liked the melody, especially the chorus.
I really wish Paul would sometimes sing Kathy´s Song and For Emily himself though ´“ they are his songs after all! Is the range too high for him or something? Anyway, then Paul´s solos, he donned the hat as usual which made everybody laugh and made him smile in turn. Oh and before I forgoet, before all of this ´“ in between some of the anecdotes someone was shouting out I love you´ (and that sort of went on throughout the evening) but Artie asked ´˜Who do you mean?´ and when he couldn´t hear the guy´s response Paul added ´˜Now which one were you referring to there? Not that it matters´¦ I´m just curious´ That was hilarious too ´“ and the guy shouted back both, of course. Anyway, so Paul´s solo set was marvelous as always (I wonder if he´s even capable of not being marvelous on stage). Paul did the whistling himself this time on Julio, and omitted the ´˜ta na na na na´ stuff he´d randomly added last year, which I thought was a good decision. And yes Ian, The Boy in the Bubble was the same arrangement as last year´s tour, so that was fantastic. Everyone loved Diamonds, and at the end the crowd gave him a huge round of applause and cheering, and when it started to die down a little Paul put his hand to his ear and cocked his head as if to say ´˜Isn´t there more?´. Then more S&G numbers ´“ My Little Town leading straight onto Bridge was divine, and both tracks were so wonderfully done. My Little Town is such an awesome song. Then 1st encore, a spellbinding SOS, and it took people a while to start singing along to the chorus of The Boxer, but with some encouragement from Paul and Artie we got there. Leaves that are Green I found particularly touching, and Paul smiled and shook his head as he sand ´22 now but won´t be for long´. Throughout all of this Paul and Artie got lots of standing ovations and for the last song thankfully people around me chose to remain standing, so I felt like I could stand too, and so they had basically the whole arena dancing along to Cecilia, which they both sang with huge smiles on their faces. In some ways the vibe of the last song made up for the omission of Feeling Groovy, but I would still have loved to have had that as part of the set ´“ to me ´˜Slow down, you move to fast. You´ve got to make the moment last´ is an ultimate way to finish an S&G concert.
But after Cecilia the whole band came up and stood in a line and were introduced each in turn, half of them by Paul and half by Artie. And the band was absolutely fantastic, it was such a joy to watch them playing though unfortunately my view of quite a few of them was blocked by the sound or whatever boxes which were piled high between the front row and the stage. For most of the musicians he was introducing, so Tony, Bakithi, Jamey, Charley and Vincent, he talked about how long they´d been performing together and the guys seemed genuinely touched to have had the chance to work with such an amazing talent, and vice versa for Paul ´“ a lot of smile and back-patting. When he got around to Jamey Haddad Paul said something about ´˜normally he plays exceptionally well but he has a night off tonight´ and then something about ´˜but he´s a teacher so we can forgive him´. I´m not really sure what that was in reference to cos I didn´t notice any mishaps in Jamey´s percussion, but it was a good laugh for everyone, and Jamey and all the other musicians seemed to find it hilarious. Then Artie went around and introduced Andy Snitzer, Rob Schwimmer (who I hardly got a view of at all unfortunately), Mark Stewart, Larry Saltzman and Warren Bernhardt. And so that was it!
A really spectacular, magical evening all in all, and I´m finally starting to get the whole S&G thing. It´s definitely different seeing them live on stage than listening to their CDs. I also got a really nice impression of Artie which I´m glad about, given some of the negative things I´ve read in the past - which I don´t discredit, but I would just rather think better of him than worse. In any case, I think he´s just naturally charismatic. But above all I´m just so grateful for having had the chance to see Paul again in concert, in such wonderful shape and playing and singing as perfectly as usual. I couldn´t tell whether he might have remembered me cos he didn´t point or anything, but he seemed to scrutinise our section of the front row for a while when the concert opened, and on some of the songs like Cecilia I was able to sing right along with him grinning at us and looking straight into our eyes, and that was really awesome. Well, maybe a new album next year and then another round of touring in 2011? That way we can all get our annual dose of Paul Simon! Definitely fingers crossed :-)