To call Paul Simon a legend would be a vast understatement. With a career spanning more than 50 years and a plethora of well-deserved accolades, the music man has embarked on a nationwide tour ahead of his 12th studio album.
Nestled between rows of colorfully lit pine trees on a beautiful night, the Pinewood Bowl audience was made up of a fantastical collage of folks of all ages and all walks of life. Paul Simon sauntered to the stage at around 8 PM wearing a fedora, scarf and dark jacket.
“Hello my friends! So this is Nebraska. I heard about it, but I didn’t know it really existed,” Simon joked.
A fan in the audience countered, yelling that Paul had indeed visited 48 years ago.
“Ok, you pinned me. I was here once.”
Standing at just 5’3”, Paul Simon’s larger than life presence is certainly not bounded by height or limits. At 74, Simon’s vocals sounded magnificently clear. A man of many faces and animated gestures, he was truly feeling the music throughout the passionate performance, leaving his heart on the stage.
Classics like “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” and “You Can Call Me Al” had delighted concertgoers dancing in their seats, and even in the aisles.
Toward the middle of the set, a story was told about an encounter with a medicine man’s Ayahuasca. A couple of audience members cheered, to which Simon smiled, “Oh, you’ve been to the Amazon!” After being told about its hallucinogenic properties, “I thought about it for a nano second, and I said, ‘Yeah. Let’s do that’… And that’s the story of this next song called ‘Spirit Voices’”. For the first time in the evening, his acoustic guitar was replaced by an electric.
Nebraskans were delighted to a juxtapositional balance between old and new. Songs spanned from those black and white Garfunkel duo days, monochrome Bookends, to the depths of Graceland grace, relentless Rhythm Of The Saints, and previews from his forthcoming release.
Simon’s unmistakable sound was rounded out by a nine piece band and their myriad of instruments, all so well-defined and terrifically placed. The man of the evening was never shy about giving his fellow musicians time to shine, with a few solos mixed in.
After two encores, Simon ended out the night with 1969’s “The Boxer”. A chorus of fans instinctively sang along to every bit of “lie la lie” refrain.
With his band gathering in a row, a last bow and a wave, Paul Simon exited the stage, closing out a 24 song night.
His latest release, “Stranger To Stranger” is due out on June 3rd . He will be touring the states through early July, before heading overseas to perform in the UK.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell