Four encores, the voice of a teen angel and the charm of a Cape Clear storyteller, can someone please talk Paul Simon out of his decision to stop touring.
Though 75, this final world tour is on the back of Stranger To Stranger, released in June, Simon’s best album since Graceland (1986). This spine-tingling Dublin show also featured gems like ‘Rewrite’ and ‘Dazzling Blue’ from his masterful 2011 album So Beautiful Or So What.
Simon may be saying farewell, but this tour is no nostalgia trip. He’s an artist still at the height of his creative powers; and his bandmates are so good they defy logic.
“It is such an honour for us to be in this band, playing this deep, deep music,” said guitarist Vincent Nguini. “This next song is in 9/8 time.” Most humans struggle to tap out 4/4 time. This supernatural nine-piece band, directed by Simon and his multi-instrumentalist buddy Roy Halee (81; yes, 81), delivers this unique music without missing a beat; and they do it with a smile, and with all the oak-smoked, bourbon-soaked charm of a Vegas showband.
Introducing ‘Spirit Voices’, Simon recalls being brought to meet a brujo (witchdoctor) in the Amazon jungle. When he gets to the part about mind-altering root medicines, he gets a roar of approval from the front row.
“Oh, you’ve obviously been to the Amazon,” says Simon, then pauses. “It’s funny we didn’t meet.” Simon was in jovial mood all night long, even doing James Brown-like dance moves during the Cajun gem ‘That Was Your Mother’. Long before the fourth encore, the aisles were jigging.
Alongside new hits like ‘Wristband’ and ‘The Werewolf’, he treated us to ‘Mother & Child Reunion’, ‘Me & Julio’, ‘Duncan’, ‘Late In the Evening’, ‘The Boxer’, ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ (my personal highlight), ‘Sound Of Silence’ and ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’.
In June, Simon told the New York Times: “Showbiz doesn’t hold any interest for me. None.” Is this the same Paul Simon? Was what we witnessed “showbiz”? Or was it something deeper? Let’s hope that, while here, he has met an Irish brujo who’ll draw him back here again soon. We live in hope.