Oh what a night
´Oh, oh, what a night, oh what a garden of delight´, that was at the Music Hall in Hamburg yesterday night. On our tickets it said, ´a very special evening with Paul Simon´. It was not only special, it was a great and excellent performance by Paul and his world class band.
Paul opened, to my surprise, at 9.25 PM with ´That´s Where I Belong´. I had the set list from the first show in Stockholm with me and so I expected ´Kodachrome´ first. Anyway, he made some changes in the set list and I think that´s good for the show. There was no intermission and Paul played almost nonstop 2 hours and 15 minutes. I´m sure that an intermission would have killed the show. Overall the audience wasn´t ecstatic but the atmosphere was nice and all of the songs were received very well.
It was the third time I saw Paul Simon live. The first time in 1991, then last year at the MSG show in New York and now in Hamburg. It wouldn´t be faire to compare the shows, because they were too different. I mean it´s not the same, if you´re at MSG packed with 20´000 people or at the Music Hall with an audience of 2´200. I prefer the smaller venues, because it´s much more personal and I could see Paul better. In fact he stood right in front of me just some feet away.
Well, let me say something about the highlights of the show. Hmmm, now I´m in trouble... the whole show was a highlight. After the song ´Old´, Paul walked away to change his guitar and said to the audience: ´ getting old´. That is definitely not true. He´s in top form, his voice is clear and sharp, he´s just getting better and better. Not to mention all the band members. They are brilliant.
´You can call me Al´ brought the audience up to their feet. Screaming, dancing, jumping up and down, just having a great time and a lot of fun. The same procedure happened by the songs ´Boy in the Bubble´, ´Late in the Evening´, ´Proof´ and of course the final song ´The Boxer´. Everybody was singing along so it was a very special atmosphere.
Oh yes there was one thing I almost forgot!!! Paul made a mistake!!!! I mean that happens not very often to a perfectionist like Paul Simon. But during the song ´American Tune´ he got lost. He lost the thread for a moment by singing the wrong words... I thought it was funny, I´ mean it´s a live concert and mistakes can happen everywhere...
This tour is a must see! Go and get them. It´s worth the money.
My Suitcase and Twenty Guitars In Hand
Entering the Musikhalle (which means ´music hall´), an baroquely styled concert hall that seats 1.500+ app., it is confirmed that Paul Simon indeed is a perfectionist: His roadies are wiping the twenty, yes, twenty, guitars clean and bright, the three gigantic percussion sets already shining in the light, coming from three light racks equipped with the latest spotlights. A quick glance at the sound mixer - has Paul brought half The Hit Factory where he recorded YTO with him?
Well, shortly after 9 pm, the audience becomes impatient - clapping, whistling, shouting - do they want the roadies to play? Ok, ok, out go the lights and the band appears on stage, the path lit by some Maglites. Shouts and Cheers. I thought, Old could have made the opener, but be wise: TWIB, almost an accident, the band slips musically, nearly falls, nobody really leads. And the sound is awful, not the slightest as heard on the album,
Paul can´t be understood. Well, you can´t transfer the brilliance of the album´s recording and mastering onto stage, and I fear the rest of the new material might not be better. But luckily, the engineer does a good job. And Paul goes back to old and reliable stuff: Graceland comes out groovy and crystal-clear. The first people leave their seats, especially on the balconies, not only to dance, but to see better as well.
Then astonished faces. Piano, blues, OMCIAMF. Why´s that? All right, everybody´s relaxing again, YTO doesn´t change that.
50 Ways should normally be Steve Gadd´s song, but this time, his excellent drumming disappears somewhere in all the other stuff being played. And Paul, always good for some surprise, tries to give the melody a new rhythm. Well, he actually fails, missing his entry and leaving out parts of the first verse. Not convincing at all. Second verse goes better. No comment on LAT - the arrangements on the YTO-album are definitely not suitable for life performance.
TWYM and MAJDBTS, emotions running high again - perfect sound, dancing, shouting. Melting point? Not yet. Cool down with SV and TT (might have been DL, I don´t quite remember). But then: Nearly everybody dancing with diamonds on the soles of their shoes - the hall is boiling (really, temperature might have reached 30 centigrade or something) and then
shouting out that you could call them Al. Obviously the greatest hit to the audience. Paul turns his microphone towards the crowd, horns are doing a great job there. I want this evening to go on forever. Sweating, hot, I
expect TBITB or LITE - but Paul prefers nostalgic sounds now. OF/B comes pretty cool with Mark Stewart on cello. Paul at its best, bound for the home of his music. One of the first Simon tunes learnt on guitar: I´m
sitting in the railway station. Suitcase and guitar in hand? Slightly understated, considering the trucks waiting outside the backdoor... however, IAAR. And that´s quite something: Not any longer the young defiant
stone, but an aged rock gnawed by time´s tooth, as we´d put it in German, crying out a long and desperate ´Iiiiiiiisland´. Yeah, those early tunes are still alive, they grow, they mature. But too short, this S+G-set.
Presenting himself as ´Frank from New York New York´ - whoever THAT could be ;-) - Paul makes a great entertainer and I can easily imagine him wearing suit and bowtie standing on a big white glamourous stage, bigband
behind him. But here he is again, just Old, or isn´t he? One of the few new songs that send their sparks towards the audience, and getting in the mood again, or should I say, in the Bubble? TBITB surely´s another of the
evening´s highlights, again everybody rises and dances. And yet again, the maestro wants us to cool down. PLM/TLGJA which nobody could have expected included in the set. But, hey, Mr Engineer, I want to listen to the lyrics, it´s a kind of ballad, isn´t it? During some of the songs, Paul´s voice comes out muffled and unfocused.
Let´s go to the coast and let´s do it late in the evening. Rise again, you patient folks, move your feet and shake your bodies. And then, sit down again quickly for a silent American Tune. Hurricane Eye finishes the set, and Paul really seems to be surprised that the audience was that enthusiastic. Well, Hamburg people are only SAID to be dry and boring, but they aren´t. They just save up for special occasions! And: While a normal German audience manages to turn everything into a march by clapping on beats one and three, here people swung, politically correct off-beat, or
stopping as if ashamed when the songs became quiet.
The first encore was Kodachrome which I didn´t recognize at first, then from the words, and then: Oh, it´s THAT song. Interesting. Well, nothing more to add for Proof than this: For the encores, the percussionists left their instruments, just taking one drum each, sitting down in front of the drumset and being so perfect that I ask myself why didn´t they do it during the whole concert?
BOTW on a carpet of cello and synthies, and although Paul leaves out the higher passages (hello to Art) and doesn´t ease our mind at all, its very nice. The lights go on, some tape starts playing, roadies beginning to pack the instruments, when, called by a demanding audience, Paul appears on stage again. I am just a poor boy, though my story´s seldom told - like a church service: The people all standing and mumbling the well known verses like a prayer, finally joining a lithurgic lie-la-lie.
And that´s it. Maybe if all of us had stayed longer and clapped and shouted even more, he would have come back a third time - some man was observing the crowd and reporting backstage.
A very special evening with Paul Simon, stated the ticket. Really? Well, Paul, you didn´t talk very much, did you? Just ´Thank you so much´, 10 times app. Where have all those stories gone as in ´One day, I was riding along in my Aston Martin and I said to myself... (Laughter) No, I really don´t have an Aston Martin... In fact I don´t have any car, no...´ and explaining how you wrote Feelin´ Groovy? Oh, by the way: Where did you leave all-time-favourites like Mrs Robinson, The Sound Of Silence or Still Crazy...?
It was a very good concert, indeed, but, considering all the equipment being carried around (and the ticket price - most expensive one I ever bought by far), it should have been much better to make it a very special evening.
And it seems fair to say that the concert of ex-partner Art Garfunkel three years ago at Hamburg University was much more charming, easily.