by Patricia Grandjean
May 27, 2011
02:44 PMBox Office
Here Comes Rhymin' Simon
Can you imagine us years from today/Sharing a park bench quietly/How very strange to be 70 . . .
It's strange, indeed, to realize that Paul Simon reaches that milestone this October. Despite the scenario described in those lines from the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel song "Old Friends," however, he's unlikely to bench himself for long—even if he needs a rest after his roughly 50-date, spring/summer tour of the United States and Europe to promote his latest CD, the rapturously acclaimed So Beautiful or So What. Which, we're happy to say, brings the New Canaan resident to Foxwoods' MGM Grand Theatre on Sunday.
Reviews of the so-far triumphant tour (which began April 15 in Seattle) indicate that Simon and his eight-piece band—including newcomers like drummer Jim Oblon and pianist Mick Rossi and stalwarts like bassist Bakithi Kumalo, who's been on board since 1986's Graceland—are filling both their itinerary, which ranges from clubs to small and midsize theaters, and their set list with plenty of changeups. Among the two-dozen or so tunes, you may or may not hear crowd pleasers like Bridge Over Troubled Water's "The Only Living Boy in New York," There Goes Rhymin' Simon's "American Tune" or Simon's cover of Junior Parker's "Mystery Train." But in addition to songs from So Beautiful you can count on a new cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Vietnam" (followed by the reggaefied song Simon says it inspired, "Mother and Child Reunion"); a tender version of "Here Comes the Sun," on which he duetted with Harrison in a 1976 episode of "Saturday Night Live"; and a reportedly terrific solo reworking of "The Sound of Silence."
As you might expect, Simon's final encore includes—how could he resist?—"Still Crazy After All These Years." "Still vital" is more like it, even though the years have shifted him from meditating on his personal future (as in "Old Friends") to reviewing the mistakes of the past (from So Beautiful's "Rewrite": "I've been working on my rewrite, that's right/I'm gonna change the ending/Gonna throw away my title/And toss it in the trash . . .") This tour may well earn him the title of pop music's hippest septuagenarian—take that, Bob Dylan—despite his notorious self-deprecation, on full display in a recent in-depth Rolling Stone feature ("Paul Simon's Restless Journey," issue 1130). About his guitar playing, wildly admired by his peers, he says: "I couldn't play a solo to save my life . . . Somebody says, 'Take it, Paul,' I'm not gonna take it anywhere"; but about himself he notes that music is him at his best, "as opposed to when I'm being a real asshole and then later regretting it—everybody famous is an asshole at times, and the only thing interesting about it is the excuse for why you're such an asshole."
Ultimately, perhaps it's for the best. As his friend, poet Billy Collins, puts it in the same piece, Simon "is a good example of the examined life." And his greatest strength has been his willingness to share his fascination with humanity's flaws with the rest of us, his ability to, as he puts it, "reduce" his experiences down to an essence that becomes universal. "Take a complex thing and make it as simple as you possibly can," he says about songwriting. "You're lucky if you can ever attain it. What I'm interested in within art is beauty. The people who like what I do like beauty. If it's beautiful, that produces an openness of feeling and generosity. And that means you're vulnerable."
For tickets and info about Simon's May 29 concert at MGM Grand, call (800) 200-2882 or visit foxwoods.com. To whet your appetite for the show further, check out this performance of "Vietnam/Mother and Child Reunion" at the Music Box earlier this year and these excerpts from Simon's visit to "The Colbert Report" in 2010.Here Comes Rhymin' Simon