By Rosie Judd
It was truly a treat to see Paul Simon perform at the Areana at Gwinnett Center Friday night, surrounded by an eight-piece multi-cultural ensemble. The set list showcased a veritable history of rhythm starting with the crowd-pleaser “Boy In A Bubble” which brought about a standing ovation from the enthusiastic arena crowd. Simon kept the audience on a rhythmical journey emphasizing multi-cultural grooves and syncopations in songs like “Dazzling Blue” and his medley of “Hearts and Bones” and blues standard “Mystery Train.” At times there were four of five musicians on percussion instruments alone, inspiring the audience to groove along in our seats.
With the length of Simon’s career, it was difficult to guess how he would choose to represent that time span in his set list. Simon’s renditions of “Mother and Child Reunion,” “That Was Your Mother,” “The Obvious Child,” and “Kodachrome” kept reminding the audience that the 69-year-old singer-songwriter has been able to write hit songs over the course of multiple decades and that we were indeed in the presence of a living legend.
Simon’s voice, while not typically his strong suit, perfectly illustrates his story-telling abilities and almost “off-the-cuff” delivery of favorites like “Diamonds On the Souls of Her Shoes,” and standout tracks from his newest release So Beautiful or So What: “The Afterlife,” “Rewrite” and “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light.” Stripping down the classics “The Only Living Boy In New York” and “The Sound of The Silence” to simple arrangements featuring mostly his guitar and voice was chill inducing.
As Simon sang “The smiles returning to the faces” while covering George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” in the first encore, I looked around at the audience and indeed saw a sea of smiles around me. We were all happy to be in that place, at that time, listening to a living legend perform a variety of favorites for us. Closing out the show with the classic “Still Crazy After All These Years,” Simon left the audience with the feeling that he was amazed and humbled at the reactions his songs could elicit even after so many years. The heartfelt “Thank you’s” and “Goodnights” made me wonder if he was as grateful for my presence as I am for the beautiful songs that he’s given me over the years?
1 The Boy in the Bubble
2 Dazzling Blue
3 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
4 The After Life (new)
5 Mother and Child Reunion
7 That Was Your Mother (zydeco)
8 Hearts and Bones + Mystery Train (Junior Parker cover)
9 Slip Slidin’ Away
11 Peace Like a River
12 The Obvious Child
13 The Only Living Boy in New York (Simon & Garfunkel)
14 Love Is Eternal Sacred Light (new)
15 Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes + Drum solo
16 Late In The Evening
17 The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel)
19 Here Comes the Sun (Beatles cover)
22 Pretty Thing (blues standard)
23 Still crazy after all these years