Sunday, May 15, 2011

Paul Simon

Paul Simon
Paul Simon -- whose sound stretches to Africa, the swamps of Louisiana and beyond -- is a musical citizen of the world.
So when Simon stood center stage at the Upper West Side's Beacon Theatre on Tuesday night, shielded by an acoustic guitar, you believed him when he nervously smiled and said, "It's a little unnerving and exhilarating to be playing in my exact neighborhood."
Yeah, Simon was home, and he celebrated with a two-hour set that touched on every phase of his career, from the very early folk-rock classics to the music from his sterling, just-released solo record, "So Beautiful or So What."
Eugene Gologursky
Paul Simon, 69, draws from albums new and old to impress fans in his old 'hood.
Despite Simon's age -- he turns 70 in October -- his voice still has the force of youth, and he hits the high notes effortlessly (although his old partner Art Garfunkel hit even higher notes with the same ease). In short, Simon was outstanding at this enthusiastic performance.
As good as his vocals were and as tightly as his eight-man backing band played, Simon made the show even better with a set list that seemed as if it were put together by an old FM radio deejay linking song themes.
After the old Jimmy Cliff anti-war tune "Vietnam," with Simon singing, " 'Don't be alarmed,' she told me the telegram said, 'but Mistress Brown your son is dead,' " he connected the dots to his own "Mother and Child Reunion" in the very next tune.
Simon sang half the new record, and those songs, especially "Rewrite," were well-received. Yet judging by the cheers and applause, the music from "Graceland" topped this gig and easily provided the night's hottest, liveliest moments.
Simon finished the show with "Still Crazy After All These Years" -- but if anything, this guy is still incredible after all these years.
The people who made music in the Sixties are ...well, Paul Simon turns 70 this year.
For me, the answer to the question is Simon's new release "So Beautiful or So What." This is music that stands up well against Simon's best work, and that's saying something. Actually, I regard Simon as perhaps the one modern pop artist who has never had a lull.  His two least-embraced albums, "One-Trick Pony " and "Hearts and Bones," are full of great material. "Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War" is one of the most beautiful and imaginative songs Simon ever wrote. I've only been through three times, so I'm not going to discuss it song by song. (Also, one is a little intimidated by the perspicacity and eloquence of the linernotes writer, one Elvis Costello.) What is our love in the spiraling chasm of the universe?

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