Thursday, June 02, 2011

Paul Simon Dazzles

Wow, what a concert. I saw Paul Simon last night at the Citi Wang Theater in Boston, possibly one of the best concerts I've ever attended. Paul and his incredible eight-genius backing band played for nearly two hours, covering nearly every part of Paul's incredible career in about 24 songs. Nearly all of the band members played two or more instruments, including horns and the wide range of percussion used on songs from Graceland, Rhythm of the Saints, and the new So Beautiful or So What albums. At 69, Paul's voice, guitar playing, and stage presence are incredibly strong.The band was rock-solid on all the many styles of music that Paul's music incorporates, from delicate harmonies and background vocals on the Simon & Garfunkel classic "The Only Living Boy in New York" to the rollicking Zydeco of "That Was Your Mother" from Graceland.

A few of the songs brought on nostalgic tears - "The Sound of Silence" and "Only Living Boy" from the early days, "Peace Like a River" from the first solo album, "Still Crazy After All These Years" and "Slip Sliding Away" from the mid-seventies, and "Hearts and Bones" from 1983. I was thrilled to hear "The Obvious Child" from Rhythm of the Saints as well as five of the rhythmically and melodically rich songs from Graceland (Crazy Love, That Was Your Mother, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Gumboots, and The Boy in the Bubble) - the band was amazing on these songs (they made great use of the two drummers plus supplemental percussion and horns played by three keyboard players). Paul and the band also pulled off some unusual sounds and musical effects on five of the songs from the new album (Dazzling Blue, So Beautiful or So What, Rewrite, The Afterlife, and the quietly haunting Questions for the Angels).

The sound system and engineering were also impressive, allowing all of these complex instrument sounds (plus vocals!) to remain clear and distinct. One surprise in the first encore was an acoustic version of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" - as pretty as this was, I would have traded it for another one of Paul's own classics, perhaps "Mrs. Robinson" or "The Boxer" or "America," but that's OK. He has too many great songs to fit in one evening, and it was all wonderful. I was reminded again and again of the beauty and craft of Paul's songwriting, especially in the rhythms and the lyrics - the attention to every detail and the work needed to make it all sound so natural and inevitable. What an inspiration!

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