Friday, June 17, 2016

Concert Review: Paul Simon at the Orpheum Theatre

Paul Simon, 2016.

On Wednesday night Paul Simon performed at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis for the second night. I attended the show with my mom and my wife. My mother is a huge Paul Simon fan and has seen him in concert many times since the 1970’s. My wife is a fan of Paul Simon’s as well, but she had never seen him in concert before. I’ve seen Paul Simon before on his 1999 tour with Bob Dylan, in 2000 when he toured with Brian Wilson, and in 2003 when he reunited with Art Garfunkel for a tour. 

Simon has always experimented with different sounds throughout his more than 50-year career in music, and the audience heard many varied styles during Wednesday night’s concert. Even though Paul Simon’s voice has wonderful warmth to it that is unique to his songs, there’s not really a “typical” Paul Simon song. Simon blends so many different styles and influences together that his music is a thick gumbo of the best that the world has to offer. 

In concert Simon is an interesting performer, as he lacks the rock star charisma of his contemporaries like Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen. It’s the power of his songs that keeps one riveted in concert rather than Simon’s own personal magnetism. Simon has always surrounded himself with excellent musicians, and his band on this tour is superb. Unfortunately, Simon never took the time to introduce them to us during the concert, which I thought was very strange. 

The set list was a mix of songs from Simon’s entire career, ranging from 1966’s “Homeward Bound” to several songs from Simon’s latest release, “Stranger to Stranger,” which just came out two weeks ago. Simon performed many of his biggest solo hits, but only “Homeward Bound” and “The Boxer” from the Simon and Garfunkel catalogue. I would have liked to hear more Simon and Garfunkel songs, but I also understand it’s not quite the same without Art’s harmonies. Simon did play five songs from Graceland, and that was pretty awesome to hear. Along with the big hits “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” “You Can Call Me Al,” and “The Boy in the Bubble,” Simon also sang, “That Was Your Mother” and “I Know What I Know.” Simon wasn’t afraid to bring out some of his biggest hits early in the evening, as he opened with “The Boy in the Bubble,” followed by “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

Something that I appreciate about Simon in concert is that he isn’t afraid to perform the songs in slightly different styles than the records. The songs are still recognizable, but they reflect his interests in different sounds, which makes them interesting to hear live. If you’re familiar with the records you can hear when he changes an inflection here and there. I was also struck again by just how great of a songwriter Paul Simon is. He writes intelligent lyrics that are free from clich├ęs and matches them to fascinating musical patterns. 

Wednesday’s concert was a great opportunity to see one of the major pop/rock songwriters of the last 50 years in person, still passionate about the music that he loves after all these years.

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