Hollywood, CA – Paul Simon played a two night stint at the Pantages Theater on April 20 & 21 just after an appearance at the more intimate Henry Fonda/Music Box just across the street.
At 69, Simon’s career spans over 40 years. The new songs and new album struck a chord with people. This is the second or third time he’s proven that age is meaningless. His voice isn’t as easy and full as it once was in his youth (or relative youth) but he communicates so effectively, many in the audience didn’t really notice. It also might partly be a biproduct of touring and singing nearly every night as it’s quite tiring on the voice. Listen close, people, Rhymin’ Simon is here to regale us with song again.
Some of his songs are so loved and well-remembered because the lyrics deal with timeless issues. “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” still comes across as truthful. “The Only Living Boy In New York” came across as a little dated, but then, 1970s soft rock might soon be all the rage again. The Graceland songs sound as fresh and delightful as they did in 1986 when some in the audience were still children.
Because Simon has some of his old cohorts on tour who have worked with him since the Graceland days, it’s only natural that they should perform several songs from that album. “Under African Skies,” a duet with Linda Ronstadt even found its way into the Starbucks playlist of late, however, that didn’t get played at the concert. (Darn!) The band was tight and sang Ladysmith’s parts well with just 8 singer, though the original group is a tough act to follow in terms of vocal richness. Ladysmith Black Mambazo features 12 plus singers.
There were people of all ages in the audience, though the majority were older. They were happy to have their hero back. Though the setlist was filled with a certain nostalgia considering his long career, the recent stuff is relevant. “So Beautiful, or So What” is his more serious song. “Afterlife” and “Rewrite” are infused with humor. He even updated “Kodachrome” to singing about having an iPhone camera to take pictures.
Simon sang three cover songs which he no doubt liked very much, however, it would have been nice to hear two more Paul Simon songs. He played Jimmy Cliff’s “Vietnam,” The Beatles “Here Comes The Sun” and an Elvis tune. There are so many songs that he couldn’t possibly hone it down to just the hits. There were some visuals, which were tasteful and pleasant accompaniment.
Paul Simon never really was much of a talker, preferring to let his songs speak for him. Rather than antics, he serves the truth on a platter and draws his audience into the palm of his hand. They are more than happy to stay there for hours at a time and beg for more until the house lights turn on. While not an especially rowdy audience, there were times when they just had to get up and dance.
Alexandra Lawn of hot indie band Ra Ra Riot tweeted that seeing Paul Simon at the Music Box was a “Dream come true!!!!!!” A few hours later she tweeted, “I hate 2 brag but..After seeing Paul Simon perform last night from 10 ft away (thank Trevor <3) I am a new woman, sick or not. Off to Japan!”
The crowd did not let him go without encores, which were ultimately planned. See the setlist in the slide show. Follow his tour at www.PaulSimon.com.