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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 22, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 16
Legendary Paul Simon masterful in tour opener
Arts & Entertainment
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Legendary Paul Simon masterful in tour opener

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Paul Simon
April 15
WaMu Theater


Six months away from turning 70, Paul Simon is peaking again. No stranger to success or critical acclaim, the legendary performer is wowing the industry with So Beautiful or So What (his best album in decades), and when he takes the stage, he can kick the asses of artists half his age.

Appearing to a sold-out crowd at WaMu Theater, Simon not only led off last weekend's concert with 'Crazy Love, Vol. II,' but he launched his entire U.S. tour here in Seattle, as well.

'Thank you, my friends,' he said humbly after the first song, and then continued to play for two hours with barely a pause. He didn't even stop to tune his guitars, he just went from one song to the next almost immediately.

Playing a mix of new and old material, the multi-Grammy-winner introduced 'Dazzling Blue' from the new album as a song written for his wife, and followed that up with a jazzy rendition of '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' with a two-person horn section.

While most of us wanted to hear the classics, Simon's fresher work didn't go unnoticed. The title track, 'So Beautiful or So What,' had a bluesy/tribal feel to it and was accompanied by handheld rattles and chimes, while 'The Afterlife' was glazed with a saucy Zydeco mix of accordions and saxophone. On another new tune, 'Love Is Eternal Sacred Light,' Simon put in double duty on guitar and harmonica.

But it was the trips down memory lane that gave everyone goosebumps. 'Slip Slidin' Away' had a melancholy vibe and Simon closed it out with whispery, high-pitched vocals - though 'That Was Your Mother' was the complete opposite: a Cajun bouillabaisse of accordions, horns, and funky percussion, like a washboard. Further on, 'Father and Daughter,' which earned the folk icon an Oscar nomination in 2002, was genuinely sweet, while 'Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes' from Simon's momentous Graceland recording got the audience to its feet, clapping and dancing in the rows nearest the stage. Similarly, 'The Obvious Child' was lively and featured sharp, trash-can-like drums.

For the first of two encores, Simon appeared solo and strummed the beginning chords from 'The Sound of Silence' with a Spanish flair - the audience roared with approval. The song, penned in 1964 as the nation still mourned the death of John F. Kennedy, sounded timeless in the hushed WaMu Theater. Some concertgoers shut their eyes, others swayed in their seats, and a few us simply allowed the chills to run up and down our spines. He next performed the jubilant, easy-to-sing-along-to 'Kodachrome.'

The second encore returned Simon and his eight-piece band to the stage, climaxing the show with a cover of The Beatles' 'Here Comes the Sun' and a rousing version of 'Late In the Evening' with a hearty brass section. There were those who couldn't resist twirling in the aisles, even as ushers pushed them back to their assigned seats.

Although his gray hairs reveal a man with many years under his belt, Paul Simon's music seems to never get old. This guy can still play with the very best of them - in fact, he definitely is one of the very best.

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