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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Paul Simon serves nostalgia and new at Chastain opener

paulsimon2011_mrPaul Simon strode onstage and tipped his fedora toward the crowd – a fitting start to what would be a two hour throwback to gentlemanly music.

 The critically decorated, generation-spanning singer opened the summer season at a sold-out Chastain Park Amphitheatre. But at times it seemed the mellow show would have been better suited at the Fox Theatre, where his introspective, musically layered songs didn’t have to compete with conversations about whether or not to throw away the tin foil covering a food container.

 But, thanks to Chastain’s crisp sound and Simon’s clear and, through 90 percent of the show, robust voice, the evening turned into a pleasant stroll tinged with nostalgia.

 Though the heartiest cheers and most fervent hip-shaking didn’t erupt until the second half of the concert, when Simon and his crackerjack eight-piece band rolled out a percussive feast during “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “Kodachrome” – still rollicking after almost 40 years – there were numerous highlights in his career-spanning set.

 Casual fans might have been disappointed not to hear radio staples such as “You Can Call Me Al” (though who can blame Simon for ditching that cheese-fest?) or “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,” but there was plenty to love in a sax-sprinkled “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and the beach blanket balminess of “Slip-Slidin’ Away.”

 Besides, this is a guy who turns 70 this year and was the first-ever recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. You want to tell him what he should play?

 Simon’s U.S. tour, which began last month and wraps the first week of June (he then heads to Europe) is to tout his excellent new album, “So Beautiful or So What.”

 Along with the title track, which the low-key singer introduced by looking upward and noting, “Beautiful night…beautiful sky,” Simon performed three other new tracks including “Rewrite,” a pleasant toe-tapper, and the heavily syncopated “Dazzling Blue.”

 His love affair with percussion – and a beautiful love affair it’s been – was fully realized on “The Obvious Child,” when half of the band played some variation of drum, and the gloriously complex “Late in the Evening,” which, like many of Simon’s songs, was subtly arranged in a slightly lower key and at a slightly slower pace.

 Simon’s voice has never been about power or range. Instead, it’s his phrasing – the rhetorical questions and detailed observations turned into stories – that has always been his cornerstone, whether solo or sharing heavenly harmonies with Art Garfunkel.

 So when his voice began to waver during the encores, it really didn’t matter.

 Who else but Simon could retain the sparse, haunting quality of “The Sound of Silence” even while singing it solo? Or emote the lyrics of “Still Crazy After All These Years” with a sweet guilty-as-charged shrug?

 The guy who lived them, wrote them and whose character is smudged all over them.

 And there is only one of those.

 

Melissa Ruggieri/Alanta Music Scene Blog

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

10 comments Add your comment

VV

May 22nd, 2011
1:15 pm

Fabulous show…..no one tells a story like Paul.

Rich

May 22nd, 2011
2:01 pm

I want to thank Paul and band and crew for the truly deep emotional experience I got from all their efforts. The feelings within all the layers of varying music colors and volume levels had me spellbound, literally. I cant recall a more emotional canvas of art in my lifetime! Good feelings, bad feelings, healing all observed from a distance but integrated in all of us! The music was so sweet and so detailed Amazing experience… PS Im a drummer and would love to jam with yall! ha

Al D

May 22nd, 2011
11:36 pm

You pay premium prices to listen to B side music. We came to hear his hits. Didn’t get them.

Al D

May 22nd, 2011
11:42 pm

PS. The video monitors we’re working so unless you were in the front row you couldn’t see him at all. What’s up with that Chastain

Loved the show

May 23rd, 2011
3:49 pm

@Al D — He played music from his new CD, which is the reason he is touring, and some big hits, 50 Ways, Slip Slidin’ Away, Mother and Child Reunion, Hearts and Bones, Peace Like A River, Only Living Boy in New York, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Sound of Silence, Kodachrome, Late in the Evening, Still Crazy After All These Years.

I think that’s a good bit of hits. If you didn’t want to hear his new stuff and just his highlighted hits (which I’m confused by because that’s what you got), you should have just went and picked up a greatest hits CD and stayed at home.

Great mix !

May 23rd, 2011
7:36 pm

Art isn’t easy… They made it look very easy. So much talent and brilliance.

Bo Sephus

May 23rd, 2011
7:54 pm

I agree with Loved the show, going to see it in Europe and think you get a good mix of hits as well as more recent and more obscure material from graceland.

Al D should have spent as much time listening to the music instead of playing with tin foil and food wrappers

JR

May 24th, 2011
10:10 am

when i pay $100 a ticket, i expect him to do more than pimp for his new album. the music level was so high that words couldn’t be discerned unless the song was familiar. and there were too few familiar songs. sounds of silence was the only S&G song. never again!

Great show

May 24th, 2011
6:31 pm

JR, you weren’t going to S&G. He played a good deal of his hits, if you follow him at all (and I don’t know why you’d go if you don’t) then you would have known what to expect and would have known a great deal of his songs.

John

May 26th, 2011
8:57 am

He played right at 2 hours or maybe a little over. He played four songs from his new album. That is not that many. Plus, that album is great and the songs sounded great live. Some people just like to complain. If there was anything to complain about it was the crowd for the first half of the show, as people were too busy eating, talking, and drinking.