Dare I say it, last night’s Paul Simon Vector Arena concert in Auckland was even better than Simon and Garfunkel’s show at the same venue in 2009. That concert was more rooted in glorious nostalgia, never more emblematic than when the lights silhouetted the two “old friends” and despite it being 40 years after the fact, the 60s-recalling image remained the same. And that image; that silhouette of the little guy with the guitar and the tall guy with the curly hair rammed home that Simon and Garfunkel really are just as famous as the Beatles.
Taking nothing away from seeing Simon and Garfunkel live, one of the greater moments of my concert going life, it’s just that Paul Simon on his own delivers an arguably stronger set list. Sure, there’s no need for him to cover the Beatles, Bo Diddley and Chet Atkins when he’s left out American Tune, Homeward Bound and Bridge Over Troubled Water, but that is as minor a quibble as a quibble can get.
Without doubt, Paul Simon solo at Vector Arena April 8 2013 has rocketed into my all time top 10 concert experiences, up there with the likes of Springsteen, the Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, Lionel Richie, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac and U2. See the article yesterday (which contains further links) as to the brilliance of Simon’s songwriting, but in short, this concert was a near spiritual experience. There are so many reasons why, but let’s try the unshakeable integrity of the songs, the rhythms, the melodies and some of the finest lyrics in popular music history, not to mention a crackingly funky and dexterous 8-piece band.
Simon’s voice is a special little wonder too. In reality, he doesn’t sing as high as he sounds due to the fact he has always sung quite quietly with the mic turned up higher than louder singers. This gives his voice a gentle purity which even in his early 70s sounds just as good as decades gone by.
As for the set-list, it’s hard to beat one that includes genre-bending pop masterclasses like Still Crazy After All These Years, Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, The Boxer, Sounds Of Silence, Hearts And Bones, My Little Town, Late In The Evening, You Can Can Me Al, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Only Living Boy In New York, Boy In The Bubble, Slip Slidin’ Away, Gone At Last, Kodachrome, Me And Julio, The Obvious Child etc etc.
It’s that last song I want to highlight for the purposes of this blog entry. Simon was always influenced by other genres and cultures and long before Graceland brought South African music to the world. American Tune was based on an old English hymn, Mother And Child Reunion was Jamaican-inspired reggae and El Conder Pasa was built on a Spanish melody. And for a Jewish boy, he always had a way with gospel, from the secular (Loves Me Like A Rock) to the spiritual (Gone At Last). Today’s song is from the Brazilian-flavoured followup to Graceland, 1990’s Rhythm Of The Saints.
Reaching the UK top 20, The Obvious Child has both a catchy melody and a thumping multi-layered rhythm track which is the song’s hallmark. Just as Simon was openly influenced by others, I’m certain Michael Jackson had heard this because the dense Brazilian drumming is almost identical to that which appeared on his equally compelling They Don’t Really Care About Us from his History album in 1995. Here they both are: