Words by Nicholas Stock
Cover photo by Lester Cohen
Troubadour Paul Simon is the quintessential songwriter and showman. From his work with Art Garfunkel to his unbelievably popular solo career, Simon’s name is indelibly linked to the folk movement of the 60’s as well as to the popular music of the ensuing decades. Earlier this year he announced Homeward Bound – A Farewell Tour that would start in North America and work it’s way through the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe before a final show in New York in September. This massive tour is a chance for fans to come and pay homage to one of the greatest performers alive today. Simon’s stop in South Denver was smack dab in the middle of his international run. The sun was ablaze across the sky as it set behind the mountains west of Fiddler’s Green. A massive storm front hung on the edge of our sightline, but never rained on our parade.
Paul Simon appeared from the side stage already strumming the classic Simon & Garfunkel tune “America” just after 8 PM. Subsequently we were treated to a slew of his solo work.
Simon’s music is steeped in West African blues, zydeco, reggae and heavy use of percussion. His band numbered over a dozen and featured many of the players that have been with him throughout his solo career. Fans jumped during “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” before he busted into Graceland classic “The Boy in the Bubble.” The songs would span his career and encompass several newer tracks including the stunning “Dazzling Blue.” His zydeco influences showed during “That Was Your Mother” followed by “Rewrite,” which, according to Simon, was inspired by tapping his finger on his acoustic guitar. The large band’s synergy was on display during “Mother Child Reunion.” The pop classic “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” got fans to their feet.
Throughout the show Simon took time to extrapolate on songs and tell stories. Simon told a story about flipping through an art book at Joan Baez’s house and reading the caption “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War,” which he felt would be the perfect name for a surrealist tune. This was a highlight for Simon fans given the rarity of this song in a live setting. Simon continued with some more recent tracks including the tongue-in-cheek nod to show-going “Wristband.” The audience was again wowed with several songs off of The Rhythm of the Saints including “Spirit Voices” and “The Obvious Child.” Simon took to the stage solo for the first time with the pop spiritual “Questions for the Angels.” He wrapped up this incredible set of music with a pair of hits “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “You Can Call Me Al.”
Paul Simon returned for the first of two chunky encore sections with the fan favorite “Kodchrome.” Then, the crowd was treated to “Gumboots,” a song steeped in the history of South Africa and references the heavy boots worn by workers in the region. He finished the first encore with an appropriate “Still Crazy After All These Years.” After avoiding much of his early work in the show he returned with a chilling rendition of “Homeward Bound.” The excitement continued to build during a bouncy version of “Graceland.” “The Boxer” also had a hauntingly bucolic sound as it echoed over the attentive crowd. “Late In the Evening” could have been a very appropriate end to the show, but he continued with another solo acoustic version of “American Tune.” The show wrapped up with a stunning “Sound of Silence.”
After sixteen Grammys, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and being named as one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time by Rolling Stone Paul Simon has little left to accomplish. He noted in his performance that while he plans to stop touring he will continue to perform and write songs. The fact remains that Simon is still one hell of a showman. He is musically on point and can truly lead a band. The show a Fiddler’s was exactly what I wanted to see from the aging star. His music remains relevant and wholly authentic to the American experience. With several months left on this tour I highly recommend seeing him live, before it’s too late.
Set 1: America, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Boy in the Bubble, Dazzling Blue, That Was Your Mother, Rewrite, Mother and Child Reunion, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War, Can’t Run But, Wristband, Spirit Voices, The Obvious Child, Questions for the Angels*, The Cool, Cool River, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al
Encore: Kodachrome, Gumboots, Still Crazy After All These Years
2nd Encore: Homeward Bound, Graceland, The Boxer, Late In The Evening, American Tune*, The Sound of Silence