at the NEC Arena * * * *
Review by Andrew Cowen
Now in his 65th year, there’s something eternally youthful about Paul Simon. His stage presence is undimmed and, although he spoke few words to the audience, he communicated joy through words and music.
This was more than a group hug for the baby boomers, a cosy trip down memory lane.
With a crack nine-piece band, it was rich and diverse, flitting from the township jive of the Graceland album to the unabashed idealism and poetry of the Simon and Garfunkel era.
Paul Simon is often overlooked as a songwriter, his stock being somewhat lower than other icons such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young or John Lennon, yet songs such as The Boxer, Late In The Evening or Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover are the equal of anything by these writers.
Not one to play the star, Simon presents a fairly unassuming figure, sharing the spotlight with other members of his band. Yet, such is his presence, it’s impossible to ignore his absorption in the music.
Time has not diminished Simon’s voice which still ranges from the conversational to the soulful. He’s a natty mover too, dancing unselfconciously or using his guitar as a prop like a folkie Chuck Berry.
In a generous two-hour performance, all corners of Simon’s career were covered; the three songs from his latest album, Surprise, holding their own alongside the older material.
Inevitably, it was the older stuff that most had come to hear and Simon didn’t disappoint. Cecilia, Homeward Bound, The Only Living Boy In New York and Bridge Over Troubled Water all sounded fresh. Rather than just revisit old arrangements, the band brought new shapes to the familiar. The sound was based around a strong rhythmic backbone, two drummers playing polyrhythmically, really working the groove.
An infrequent visitor to these shores, Paul Simon is as relevant today as ever.