Montreux is a very expensive and crowded city. We (Bodo and me) arrived at Sunday in the morning (about 1 o'clock). We knew or at least expected that the Paul Simon band arrived this morning. So we walked through the city to find the buses, one of the band members or even Paul. But to be honest, we met no-one except a sound engineer (he checks the microphones) but we didn't talk to him.
The next day we met Nicolas, Choku and another japanese fan in our youth hostel. After a short talk they took a bus and drove to the stravinski auditorium were the concert should take place. Bodo and me arrived a bit later cause we couldn't find a free parking place for our car. We waited with the other fans till 2 p.m. in front of the stravinski auditorium until we were allowed to go inside. The concert should start at half past eight so Bodo and me decided to go eating something.
We returned around 4 p.m. and had to wait till 7 p.m. when they opened the entrance. Bodo and me got into trouble with a fan, he feared not to reach the first row and wanted Bodo to leave his guitar and bag outside and not to check it because it would take too long. So I decided to take it to the vestiaire. Though Bodo and me were among the first and ran up the stairs up to 3rd floor as if we were crazy ;-). We expected to ran into the hall but aigan the doors were closed. So we had to wait another 3/4 hours, and around 8 they opened the doors - our last barrier to the concert. Again we ran to get the best places but to our disappointement an uncountless number of security sat in the first row on the ground. I guess they took the job just because of the Paul Simon concert - the way Nicolas did. He was even allowed to go backstage and eat with some of the band members (Jim and Alain) and as he toldus later he had a few seconds lasting conversation with Paul. So we had to be satisfied with sitting in the second row - but we sat/stood in front of Vincent. With the time the auditorium filled and finally the concert started with a delay of half an hour - it is true that on the screens for the balconies Bugs Bunny films were shown in the meantime. The atmosphere was nice, right from the beginning the concert seemed to be more personal than in Rome, because just around 2500 were present. The only thing that enoyed me were the cameras everywhere. One on the left and one of the right side, some behind us (but not disturbing) and a few on the stage. Well, another thing - the photographer, but they disappeared after the fourth song (which is though rather long). The music of 'Bridge over troubled water could be heard' and finally the musicians and Paul arrived. The normal setlist followed (I will shorten this - it's always the same).
Jim Haynes, the trumpet player took a glance at Bodo and me during a song and even Bakithi seemed to recognize us. I'm not sure about theother musicians
Once when a camera stood right in front of me and I couldn't really see Paul it seemed as if he looked at me in compassion or at least with saying "C'est la vie". But during 'That was your mother' while singing "Cath a little bit of those Cajun girls" he pointed at me, rather long in my opinion. I look at him in disbelief and he just seemed to say "Yes, I meant you!" I know that he always points at a girl in the first row who's dancing, but though it was a special moment for me. When 'Diamonds' began I took the T-shirt Bodo and me had brought with us for Bakithi and showed it to him. Then we both held it, Paul and also Bakithi (I don't know about the other band members) saw it. But Bakithi didn't take it. So after his bass solo of 'You can call me Al' he took a few steps forward to us and I took the T-shirt, jumped over the securities sitting on the ground and ran to the stage. Another security guy came running up to me but didn't do anything. Next to me I saw a man on his knees who had given Paul some very little flowers and a paper.
Now Paul looked at me and expected me to give him the T-shirt, he was just two meters away from me and I threw the T-shirt to Bakithi who was around 5 meters away. He fortunately catched it and grinned, I think he didn't expect THIS. Paul now looked at me and at the T-shirt, he seemed to be very surprised, maybe a little bit disappointed, but amused and astonished and I think it was okay for him not to get the T-shirt.
During 'The boy in the bubble' we were allowed to stand up, but it was very hard for me and Bodo to get in the first row. Because nearly in front of me was the camera and the security guy didn't want me to stand in front of it. So I had a great fight with him for about two songs but then I reached the stage and got my first row place. Bodo unfortunately didn't manage it but had a great view though.
During the following songs Paul looked a few times at me but it was nicer to look at Bakithi cause he was making jokes from time to time. When Paul shook hands for the first time he also took mine and said rather quiet to me "Bakithi Kumalo fan". I guess he was a bit confused that I wanted him to shake my hand when I don't have a present for him but for Bakithi. But he was not angry as I found out because he gave me his hand another time and smiled the same smile.
During 'Proof' Choku threw his cell phone to Paul but he didn't catched it but tried to. As he took it from the ground another fan gave him a kind of green plastic figure which had a lamp in the had you can switch on when pressing a buttom. Paul found out how it worked and played with it. Evenly he pressed the buttom and the lamp switched on. When he sang "Some people gonna call you up and tell you something that you already know" he sang into the cell phone and recognized the picture (was a picture of him on the screen) and with a very high voice (sounded child-like) he sang into the figure. Then he through the cell phone back and held the figure under his T-shirt and switched it on and off. This was the funniest moment I've ever been through with Paul Simon. Everybody was just laughing!! *g*
During the next song, 'Mrs. Robinson' Paul's son Adrian, whcih was standing just on the side of the stage before played with Jamey Haddad percussion. When Paul played The Boxer his son Harper was with him. It was the same as in Rome, you couldn't really hear him, just very very hardly. But Paul introduced him this time. After this song Vincent appeared and I asked him to give me a plectron which laid on the ground, he handed it to me, but wasn't very friendly - but not unfriendly too. A few songs before I wanted to ask him to give me the plectron of Paul which laid on the ground but Vincent didn't hear me and so, maybe for reasons of saving money a techniciens put it back on the microphone. But later Paul gave exactly this plectron to someone in the crowd - not to me, cause to us he said, he needs it. But well, maybe he changed his mind when he saw the other fans ;) Standing in the first row I could take a glance at the setlist from Vincent that was picked on the ground. The first song was 'Graceland', then 'You're' the one and the other songs. I don't know why 'Bridge' wasn't mentioned there. Funny were the abbreviations the band used, nearly the same as used from fans, '50 ways', 'SOS', 'Mother' ('That was your mother'), 'Me and Julio', 'Diamonds', 'Al', '...' . What I didn't understand was the right half of the paper, behind several songs the name of a few band members were written, even Vincent's name, though it was his setlist...
During the last song, Still crazy, Bodo and me went out of the auditorium, catched his guitar and went to the buses and the exit. There we waited till some musicians arrived. Jim Haynes came up to us, he remembered our names, introduced his wife and we talked with him. Even he said that Paul was really surprised when he didn't get the T-shirt but Bakithi and he praised me for my good throw. Then he had to leave. The other musicians walked pass us, but we didn't spoke with them (Jay Ashby, Andy Snitzer). Suddenly Tony asked us from out of a window maybe from the third floor if we wait for Vincent. We weren't sure whether he spoke with us but well, we said yes.
We were a group of about 15 people (photo!!) who waited to see Paul. We played and sang '50 ways' and 'Me & Julio' when Bodo went away to check the other exit. There he saw the son of Paul, Adrian, he was about to talk to him till he finally recognized the man standing next to him who was nobody less than Paul!! He came back running, took his guitar from Nicolas and ran back to the bus, he really managed to catch Paul and he signed his guitar. The security guys were extremely unfriendly, I just could take one photograph and so Bodo was the only one that evening who got an autograph of Paul. The other fans were of course a bit disappointed. The next one we met was Jamey Haddad. Bodo spoke for short with him "Be careful that Adrian does not take your job!" and Jamey answered smiling "It wouldn't be the first son ..."
Suddenly Tony walked passed us but really didn't care for us, so I ran after him and ask him whether he would sign on my T-shirt and he did so. We had a short talk with him and then the buses left. We fans walked into the auditorium, took some photos of us and then some went home, some went to drink something.
A wonderful evening was over, but what nobodoy knew to this time and even we were not sure about it, Bodo and me got backstage passes for Berlin! It was one of the greatest evenings in my life.
Gosh - what an amazing show last night. I'm back in London now, so have had time to collect my thoughts and reflect on just how good it was. I went to Switzerland to take my father, who lives there (about an hour's drive away). On a personal note, when I was an impressionable teenager, I guess around 13 or 14, Graceland came out and nothing (before or since) made a greater impression on me than that album. It was my father who first bought it and played it (mostly and repeatedly in his car) and since then we have spent a lot of time listening to his music and watching his concert videos. It was therefore a real thrill to take him last night to see Paul Simon live for the first time. My younger brother (also a big fan) was also staying with him at the time, and I must thank Nicolas again for having a spare ticket which I bought from him so another member of my family could experience such a wonderful event.
Anyway, back to the show...
The Auditorium Stravinski is quite small and although there was plenty of room downstairs to stand I was pleased to have a comfortable seat dead-centre in the balcony (which is small, can't hold more than 700 people, and therefore feels very much like being at the back). There are two screens either side although the quality of the image was poor.
The show eventually started just after 9pm. I have to say there was a certain amount of frustration building in the audience about the delay before he came on - some 35 mins - which wasn't helped by the organisers briefly turning on/off the house lights, nor having episodes of Bugs Bunny (I'm NOT JOKING!) being played on the screens. What was that about? Anyway, The Sound of 'Bridge' (as it were) started the 2-hour show which was absolutely wonderful. He played every hit song I could think of, and more. The band are phenomenal and are exactly the same line-up as a couple of years ago, so it's not surprising they clearly know what they are doing and work so well together. Clearly, they are all incredible musicians, but I thi nk Mark Stewart is almost in a league of his own (with Steve Gadd).
It was great to see Paul switch between International/World Music guru, to folk singer/songwriter, and at one point in doing I Am A Rock starting with the latter and moving into the former. I don't think Paul could have made more of an effort to perform, and he looked like he was enjoying every second. When Festival Organiser Claude Nobs came on at the end to embrace Paul and tell the audience how much of a thrill it was that Paul Simon came to Montreux, the feeling seemed to be reciprocated by Paul and the crowd alike.
This show is shorter than his last European tour in 2000, but without having to promote You're The One (he only played 3 songs from it: YTO, Hurricane Eye - the ending of which now is far superior to the album version - and The Teacher) we got more variety. To hear so much S&G stuff, particularly their greatest songs namely Bridge Over Troubled Water, The Sound Of Silence, The Boxer, I Am A Rock, Mrs Robinson, and Homeward Bound was fantastic. He did 5 songs from the greatest-album-ever-made-ever (in my opinion) Graceland: the title track, The Boy In The Bubble, You Can Call Me Al, Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, and That Was Your Mother. He did a number from ROTS: Spirit Voices, The Coast & Proof. Actually, it looked as though Vincent Nguini was struggling to pick the rhythm at the start of both the first 2 songs before finally getting it and the band joining him, or was it just me?
I haven't seen Bakhito Kumalo do a jig at the front of the stage before, but it was another moment of excitement and pleasure. I would add at this point that I don't think anything in a Paul Simon concert can be called "spontaneous" with every beat and the song order having been worked out well in advance! That has it's advantages, clearly, but I suspect the same concert is being played everywhere which will remove the element of surprise to anyone reading any review that lists the song order. Sorry...
At one point during Proof Paul did take from the audience a green flashing light-thing (?) and a plastic phone to imitate to when singing "Somebody calls you up..." which looked spontaneous, but I suspect he'd done it before! Harper Simon came out for The Boxer, although he looked distinctly uncomfortable, whereas another of Paul's very young sons was moving around the band, playing percussion with Jamey Haddad at one point, and being on Tony Cedras's shoulders at another. He seemed to be having a lot of fun and it was really sweet. Plus, he looks like a mini-Paul which is eerie.
Back to songs, I also liked the 70's choices being just what every die-hard Paul Simon fan would want: Loves Me Like A Rock, Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard (grungy electric guitar playing from Paul), 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (it's such a joy to see Steve Gadd come out behind the drums because he is the god of all things rhythmic!), Kodachrome (the new arrangement of which he's sorted because I thought he'd massacred it last outing) and, the final encore, Still Crazy After All These Years.
My father's favourite song is Late In The Evening, so I was delighted with his perfect rendition of this number, and it made the event all the more special.
So, that was Montreux. Couldn't have been better (give or take the delay & cartoons!), and whoever else sees him in Europe this Summer will not find him performing better, or with a better selection of songs.
I'll catch up with him in Liverpool and Edinburgh, and might see some of you there.