This is the best Paul Simon concert I have ever attended. The crowd was very receptive and Paul felt very comfortable with the audience. He talked and joked more than he usually does with an audience. It was great.
This ampitheater held only about 3,000 to 5,000 people, so it was a pretty small but intimate crowd. I think Paul likes smaller crowds better. No matter where you sat you got a good view of the band. I sat in the orchestra section, so I had an even better view!
The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold. It was humid, but what can you do eh?
At 7pm, this nameless band came on and sang about 5 songs. They were okay, but you could tell that the crowd was getting restless by the 5th song. Even the leader said that his band had no name, and wasn´t even sure if they wanted one (OOKKAAYY....) which told me that it was time for them to get off the stage.
Once that was over, Paul came out at around 8:00pm.
The first song was Gumboots. I thought it was a good way to get the concert going. Paul was very energetic during the song.
The second song was Boy in the Bubble. It was a regge version of the song. I personally didn´t really like it as much as the original, but that is just my opinion. The crowd really seemed to love it though!
The third song was Outrageous. As said in the other concert reviews, most of the crowd did not seem to know this song, or the others from Paul´s newest album. I really found that kind of sad. Those who did know it though, got up and danced, myself included....it was awesome!!!
The Fourth song was Slip Sliding Away. Before he sang it he joked with the crowd by saying, ´Sure am glad to be back here....I grew up here only a little ways away.....This use to be all cotton fields!!´
Everyone laughed because we all knew that he is really from New York, but he was right about Orange County being all cotton fields at one time.
The fifth song was You´re the One. I really LOVED the new way that Paul sang this song. He changed the order of some of the lyrics and gave it a harder, edgier beat. It was awesome! I hope that Paul comes out with a concert album beacuse I really want a copy of that version of You´re the One.
The next song was Me and Julio, always a crowd pleaser!
Next was How Can You Live in the Northeast. What upset me about this song was the fact that after everone had a blast dancing to Me and Julio, when this song came up, a song obviously no one was really familiar with, it is then that everyone chooses to leave to either take a bathroom break or get more food or alcohol. I noticed this everytime Paul sang something from his new album, but when he sang the old standards, everyone came rushing back. Maybe it´s just me, but I found that highly insulting.....anyway...
After that, everone came rushing back for Mrs. Robinson where Paul did a fantasic guitar solo in the middle. What makes this unique is that Paul rarely does guitar solos. I was in heaven!
Next was Loves Me Like a Rock, a great sing along song, and believe me, everyone did!
After that came That Was Your Mother where we all got a chance to see Paul strut his stuff :)
Next was one of my favorite parts, and that was Duncun. Paul said that this song was of course from his first album and that the only reason he mentioned it was that he could see a lot of the people there looked as if they were not even alive when that album came out...well he was right! I can count myself in that group! Paul sang it so beautifully it brought tears to my eyes...( and a lot of whistles and screams when it came to the part where Duncun loses his virginity!!)
After Duncun came Graceland which of course put everyone on their feet. Paul played his guitar with a lot of energy....it´s hard to believe he´s really 65!
When Paul followed with Father and Daughter, I was a little disappointed not to see Adrian there. I had read a lot of the concert reviews where Adrian sang on stage with his dad, but alas, it was not here :(....though the song was of course still sung beautifully!
Diamond on the Soles of Her Shoes was hysterical because something in the audience ( don´t ask me what) kept making Paul laugh so hard it took him two tries to even begin the song! When he finally got it going, the whole theater stood up and sang it with him! It was amazing! (I wish I knew what made Paul laugh so hard!!)
Next was Still Crazy After All These Years, which again the whole crowd sang with him. The Sax solo in the middle was so good, I think it was better then Micheal Brecker!
Cecilia (another great crowd sing along!) wrapped up the first part of the show. Paul left the stage to thunderous applause which of course brought him back to do his first encore which was You Can Call Me Al. Everyone was singing and dancing with so much vigor, I thought I was going to go deaf! (At least where I was sitting!) Paul, Mark Stewart, and the Bass Player really rocked out with their guitar on this song. I wish that any reviewers who have said that Paul looks as if he is tired or does not have a lot of energy at his concerts could have seen him at this one. The man moved as if he were in his 30´s!
He left the stage again, to of course, more yelling whistles, screaming, and this time the added bonus of a few hundred people hitting the backs of their seats! It sounded like thunder!
Paul came back out and did The Only Living Boy in New York ( The acapella sung in the middle with Vincent and Mark was stunning. Paul took the high voice and never once faltered.) and The Boxer. When he sang The Boxer, Paul let the audience sing the La La Lie parts and believe me, we sang. I wouldn´t be surprised if Edie heard us over in Texas during her own concert!) I wish that Paul had sung the extra verse in the Boxer, but I know since the 80´s he stopped using it. I´ve always wanted to know why he dropped it in the first place.
Afterwards, he once again bid everyone thanks and left the stage. The same scenario occurred with the screaming and such, so out comes our Paul to sing my favorite Song of this concert which was War Time Prayers. It pissed me off that during this song is when a large amount of the crowd started to leave. I don´t know if it was because of the song (which only got a lukewarm response from the crowd. No applause before the song and only minimal after.) or perhape people just wanted to beat the crowds when leaving.
Paul sang War Time Prayers with such emotion I started to cry myself. Especially when he sang the verse: I want to rid my heart of envy and cleanse my soul of rage before I am through. You could see the intense emotion in his face. It almost looked as if he were crying too.
After he finished he went right into Bridge Over Troubled Water. It was a good rendition and the crowd loved it. It started out with just acoustic strumming but by the time he reached the middle of the song, it became much more rock. I liked it because it was a breath of fresh air to a very much well heard song.
Paul left one last time and after the usual crowd hysteria, came back to sing the final song of the evening, Late in the Evening. It was a great rocking final to a memorable and absolutley fantastic night. It was by far, the best concert I have ever attended. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it.
One last thing:
Before the show started, Mark Stewart was walking around everywhere just checking out the people. At one point I even overheard him having a conversaion with someone who might be his wife on his cell phone. I kept wanting to approach him for his autograph, but I didn´t want to disturb him. Now I feel like kicking myself!
Also, since I arrived an hour befor the concert began, I saw walking around onstage Gabriel Simon,(One of Paul´s young sons in case you are not familiar), Paul´s brother and manager Eddie Simon (He looks just like Paul...except a little shorter and less hair!) and Harper´s girlfriend Leva Imsa who sat near the front of the stage. I may not have had the guts to approach any of them, but it was still cool to actually see the people you always read about!
I hope this review was helpful for everyone!
Paul Simon (Pacific Amphitheatre/Orange County Fair, Costa Mesa, CA 7/28/06)
Boy In The Bubble
Slip Slidin´ Away
You´re The One
Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard
How Can You Live In The Northeast?
Loves Me Like A Rock
That Was Your Mother
Father and Daughter
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
Still Crazy After All These Years
You Can Call Me Al
The Only Living Boy In New York
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Late In The Evening
Steve Gadd ´“ drums
Mark Stewart ´“ guitars, baritone sax, penny whistle, vocals
Andy Snitzer ´“keyboards, tenor, soprano saxophones
Robin Di Maggio ´“ drums
Vincent Nguini ´“guitars, vocals
Tony Seagus (sp?) ´“ accordion, zyedco washboard, keyboards, guitar, vocals
Bakithi Khumalo ´“ bass
Paul Simon fronted an eight-piece band at the Pacific Amphitheatre Friday night, playing a diverse selection of tunes that included cuts from most of his solo albums and even the occasional Simon & Garfunkel number.
Simon appeared a little more at ease than he did at any of the other shows I´ve seen him do, as if he´s now comfortable with the performance aspect of his career. I´m sure it helped that the audience gave him a rousing ovation when he first came on stage, and it was that same enthusiasm which may have impressed him enough to come out for a third encore (most stops on his current tour only get two).
The first thing that surprised me about the band setup was that there were two drummers. Steve Gadd regularly tours with Simon, and most headliners aren´t so lucky. So why then was there a second drum kit on stage, and not the rig of a percussion player? As the show wore on, the answer became more obvious.
Simon had four guitars on stands behind his microphone position. The one he picked up for the first song of the set, the rousing ´Gumboots´ from the Graceland CD, was the same wood-grained Strat with the missing bridge and neck pickups that is depicted on the cover art of 2000´s You´re The One. Simon likes to gesticulate as he sings the story that is ´Gumboots´, so that guitar didn´t get a lot of use. It could hardly be called a prop, since Simon isn´t afraid to put the guitar down altogether and simply sing without one if the song calls for that.
By the time the band launched into ´Outrageous´, one of the airplay songs from the new Surprise CD, he had switched to a six-string dreadnaught and was finger-picking licks on it. His two guitarists were returnees from previous tours: stage left, Mark Stewart, who impressed Simon during the You´re The One sessions with his musical versatility, opened on a white Gretsch Country Gentleman, and as the evening went on, played a couple of Strats, a Tele, a Gibson Firebird V, and even helping out with penny whistle and baritone sax (the baritone stayed on a stand as he played it while a guitar was still strapped on). Stage right, Vincent Nguini, a Nigerian who had worked with Simon on Rhythm of The Saints, played a number of Gibsons, including a gorgeous burgundy L-4. Both Stewart and Nguini provided background vocals; Stewart, whose vocal range still gets into the highs that Simon can´t muster any more, took over for Simon on some of the higher harmonies, including the ´whistle solo´ on ´Me And Julio´. No wonder Paul likes him.
Simon wasn´t afraid to crack wise with the audience, even if might have been the same wisecrack as at the show from the night before, or the night before that: ´It´s good to be here!´ (Without mentioning where ´here´ was; I always love that.) ´I was born only a half mile from here´, he deadpanned (Costa Mesa will not be mistaken for Newark Heights, NJ by many), and then, while sweeping his arm over the breadth of the amphitheatre, added ´This was aaaalllll cotton fields back then.´ Nyuck, nyuck. Hint to Paul: It´s called Orange County because once upon a time, say, 65 years ago´¦oh, never mind.
A couple of the more familiar songs in the set got renovated arrangements since the last time I heard him play them live: ´Mrs. Robinson´ was turned into a funky, riffy number, almost bordering on reggae. It was refreshing to hear it played that way. Simon had picked up a tobacco-sunburst Strat (with full pickup complement) midway through the song and led the up-tempo mid-section with his chords, but by the end of the number had switched back to his 6-string dread. He also had a 12-string dread that he used on a couple of songs.
The band had two other multi-instrument musicians: Andy Snitzer, who bills himself as a saxman (and who indeed played tenor and soprano during the show), was mainly relegated to #1 keyboard player. That a Mac monitor was atop his stack made me wonder if some of the keyboard parts (this was not a keyboard-heavy show) were pre-recorded samples. Tony Seagus played accordion on several songs, guitar on one, keyboards on a couple, and also kicked in some vocal harmonies.
The bassist was Bakithi Khumalo, who played some of the bass parts on You´re The One. He played a five-string version of an Ovation B778, and he was pretty good on the complex bass lines within ´Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes´.
It was on that song that the presence of second drummer Robin DiMaggio (he´s on Surprise, as is Gadd) was put to good use. A rhythm passage (it wouldn´t be fair to call it a ´solo´, since both drummers were at it at the same time) near the end of the piece was fantastic. DiMaggio, like most of the bandmembers except Simon and Gadd, was allowed one or two ´break´ songs on which they did not perform. DiMaggio played the zydeco washboard on ´That Was Your Mother´, moving over to Gadd´s riser and standing behind him as he did so. Gadd is such a well-known drummer (Simon even introduced him as ´the great Steve Gadd´) that he got the biggest round of applause from the audience of any of the bandmembers, and he is so steady at what he does. If it were me, I would not have upstaged him with another traps player, but it was not me.
Introducing the song ´Duncan´, Simon pointed out that it was from his (1972) first solo album. ´I mention that,´ he said, ´because there are some (in the audience here tonight) who weren´t alive then.´ Looking around me, I surmised that there weren´t very many people in that category. (In fact, it amazes me how the audiences at the concerts I see keep getting older and older all the time.) For the ´benefit´ of those youngsters not around for that album´s debut, he also informed them that the song had won the Nobel prize.
The well-paced main set concluded with a bouncy rendition of ´Cecilia´, a Simon and Garfunkel piece from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album. After a few minutes, encore # 1 kicked off with the audience´s favorite song of the night, ´You Can Call Me Al´. Simon, by now, knows what a cornerstone this song is of any concert set, and when he gets to the climactic moment in the lyric, he does one of these: ´´¦and Betty when you call me you can´¦´ at which point he extends his arms to the crowd, who obligingly sings the ´call ME Al´ line. Simon has obviously picked up a thing or two watching Springsteen perform.
´The Only Living Boy In New York´ also from the BOTW album, got the crowd to sit back down, and ´The Boxer´ was well-rendered, with a flash of up-tempo that was never associated with that song before.
Another exit and return, and then ´Wartime Prayer´, from the new CD, a song that got a polite reception, but the audience was obviously hoping for something with a little more of a groove to it. Instead, they got ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ itself, but a pleasant version in which Simon slides effortlessly around the twists and turns that, when Art Garfunkel sings it, are melodramatic and way out of Simon´s range. Paul sings it in a more laid-back, philosophical way, and never exhibits a trace of awkwardness with the song.
Most shows on this tour ended with that song, and knowing that, we were out of our seats and on our way out, but then we noticed that the stage lights were still on, the house lights weren´t yet on, and it wasn´t quite the Pac Amp´s witching hour of 10 o´clock. Sure enough, they came back out to close the show with ´Late In The Evening´, from 1980´s One-Trick Pony, and that sent every home happy. And what do you know? It was exactly 10 o´clock.