"The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short". JRR Tolkien, from the Foreword to the 2nd edition of The Lord of the Rings.
As for the famous book above mentioned, one thing a real fan can say about the concert is this: the show is too short. Let's be clear, it lasts almost two hours, which is a honest time; but it would be very easy and pleasant remaining there, listening to Paul and his band, all night long.
Imagine you're visiting a very beautiful place: lovely cities full of art and history, in the middle of sweet hills, few kilometers away from the sea. Wonderful monuments, angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity... Imagine you are doing this with people who are dear to your heart. Imagine it is summer and it's lovely walking in a mild evening. Imagine that at the end of a day like this you can meet some lovely people from all over the world and you go to a concert by one of the greatest musicians of this time. Your eyes still full of beauty, and beauty will now reach your ears too.
This is what we have experienced in Lucca, after a marvellous visit to Pisa during the day, this is the story of a wonderful night, the powerful pulsing of love in our veins, these are the roots of rhythm and the roots of rhythm remain.
Here is the chronicle of the event.
After a light and fast (but nice) dinner, we decide it's time to reach the "Piazza Napoleone" where the concert will take place. We saw Nicolas and Paolo in the afternoon and they adviced us not to be too late if we wanted to have the best seats (the concert is supposed to start at 9:30) but in any case, if they arrive before us, they'll keep 2 seats for us (always so nice!). The rain that had refreshed the hot atmosphere of the afternoon has stopped and the weather is perfect for this outdoor concert in such a lovely place. Before dinner, we had taken a look at the stage and Paul was having the sound check with his band.
At 7:30, the security closes the square and we are a bit disappointed when we reach the gates : it's already so crowded in front of us ! We won't have the best seats even if we run fast.
About 15 mn later, while the crowd becomes more and more pressing, they open the doors and we run towards the stage. We can see Nicolas and he's calling us : he has kept 2 saets for us, 1st row, just in the middle, in front of Paul's microphone ! We can't believe it. Smartest fans in the world have gathered in Lucca, from all over the world. Italian fans (Katia, Claudio, Alessia, Paolo & Ilaria) and others from France (Nicolas), Spain (a large part of the crew of The Sound of Simon). You can hear many languages.
The concerts starts at 9:35. Paul is just in front of us and the security, luckily, is very quiet. We've planned to reach the stage some minutes later. During Graceland we try to stand up and dance but some people behind us complain (some one pulls Guido by his backpack to force him to sit down). Many people take some pics and in front of the stage, a little blond-haired boy films the show: it's Adrian (a man from the security approaches him and tells him that it's forbidden... he replies that it's his dad!!! LOL!). The sound is good and the lights are great with just a funny incident during Proof: all the lights suddenly stop, the security arrives and keep an eye on the audiance (we are all standing now in front of the stage), but Paul keeps singing, asking us to light our lighters: it's not the classic slow love ballad were lighters are switched on, but the effect is great all the same! :-) He seems to have alot of fun during all the show : he's dancing, smiling, joking, throwing water on us. He thanks the audience many times recognizing Nicolas and Paolo. The musicians are excellent too and seem so happy to play. They transfer joy to the audience and it's areal party. This time, no mistake at all: the show is perfect. From time to time, Adrian comes on stage to play the percussions or to dance and on the Boxer, we have the lovely surprise to see Harper playing the guitar and singing with his dad. The audience is very warm, singing, dancing and between the diffrent encores, everybody sings "lie-la-lie" from the Boxer : it's wonderful ! 2 hours later and after 2 encores, the show is over. We spend some time all together and we decide to try to see Paul coming out. We reach the door of a building behind the stage, guarded by many men of the security. Then, a van comes out with dark glasses : it's him but we can't see anything. Immeditiately behind, 2 other vans (with open windows) with the musicians pass in front of us : we congratulate them. They laugh and say "bye". And for us too it's time to go back to the hotel.
For the guitar people, we can add a little detail to know more about Paul's gear. The modified Fender Stratocaster (shown in the booklet of "You're the one") has only one pick up, the central one. This one should be, from what could be seen, a humbucker with the shape of a single coil. Also, Paul was in great shape as a guitar player.
The highlight of the night, as performance, was probably "The boy in the bubble". Apart of this, a real gem is the arrangement of "I am a rock". It's vibrant and full of energy, lively and powerful, there is perfect match between lyrics and music. It sounds new and fresh, but perfectly in the mood of the time when it was written.
An other very interesting arrangement is that used for "Mrs. Robinson", which is one of the new songs in comparison with the 2000 tour. On the country-like rhythm set up by drums and bass, South America sounding percussions are grafted, and droplets of blues are added. Above this all there is the guitar playing of Vincent Nguini, decorating and enriching the song with extraordinary beauty. The process reminds the building of Graceland (the song) where US music was mingled with exotic flavours. I (Guido) still prefer the original version (more "nervous"), but this arrangement is symbolic of the entire show project: a trip back home, for Simon, a return to the roots without forgetting all the things he has seen and met travelling so far and so long (and this might explain the exclusion of some songs). And indeed, Simon seems to be finally in peace with himself and his past. This is testified by the choice of the songs in the last two years: never in a solo tour since 1983 he has played so many songs from the S&G time, especially considering the large number of songs now available (in 2000 and 2002: Bridge over troubled water, The boxer, Old friends, Mrs. Robinson, I am a rock, Homeward bound, The sound of Silence). The mix of US music and music of the world is also testified by the choice of the musicians (apart from their absolute value: but Simon might have chosen othe musicians, with comparable high skills; in my opinion he wanted exactly these musicians, for the sound project he had in his mind). The rhythm section includes Steve Gadd (US) and Bakhiti Kumalo (South Africa), keyboards are played by Tony Cedras (SA, and not Louisiana, as Simon pretends during the show, LOL!) and Alain Mallet (the only European one!); the introduction of trombone (great Jay Ashby) is probably due to the influence of the Capeman, as this instrument is very common in Central America music, and it represents, together with the use of cello, one of the biggest news in comparison with previous tours (before 2000). But Paul's music is mainly guitar music, and the choice of the guitar players is very clear: US (Mark Stewart, who looks like a Scottish highlander with his long red-blonde hair and plays electric and acoustic guitars and all the instruments from the "white" music: cello, mandolin and banjo) and Africa (Vincent Nguini from the Cameroon). This plan of Simon, this return back home with his suitcase full of sounds met around the world, has been Simon's work since 1999. During the tour with Dylan, the two performed songs by some of the most prominent American songwriters (e.g. "I walk the line"). It's impossible to say if this gave him the idea, or if the project was already there and playing those songs was already part of the plan (but this is one of the questions I'd like to ask him). During that tour, Simon (in addition to test himself and check if he was still able to keep the stage for two hours) built up his band, built up the sound of the following album. Having learnt his lesson from "Hearts and bones" (in an interview with Paul Zollo, at the time of "The rhythm of the saints" he said that he was convinced that the failure of "Hearts and bones" was due to the fact that he didn't have a band at the time, although the musicians involved were very good - and he added that he would never do that mistake again, spoiling very good songs with a bad production).
The tour has been in the news quite a bit, here in Italy (more than in 2000, actually). The most stupid things have been said and written. First of all, Italian journalist seem unable to mention the name "Simon" without talking of Garfunkel and of nostaly. Then it has been said that Paul had retired (and this is true, according to an interview given by Paul to the Sunday Telegraph, in 1997) and that he was rescued to "active" music by Bob Dylan, "his long time friend (????) called him on the phone and wanted him to tour together and gave him back to us all" (and, as far as I know, this is completely false... Paul and Bob have not been exactly "long time friends" - I can remember several harsh comments by Paul; nor it was Dylan to give back Simon to active music, but Paul himself, I guess - It's true, however, that Dylan always showed a great consideration for Paul's work, and Simon is one of the few other songwriters chosen by Dylan for singing: he recorded "The boxer" and played live "Homeward bound" and "The boy in the bubble"). Also, on Italian newspapers it was written that Paul's choice to sing again songs from the Simon and Garfunkel time was due to the 11th September... and I can hardly imagine something more stupid (and actually, many songs were already performed during the 2000 tour, one year before those events!).