Last night we went to a Paul Simon concert. It was amazing. This teeny little 70-year-old man whose songbook is nearly as old as I am, with horrendous arthritis, entertained a happy audience along with his eight-member band for more than two hours.
The concert began with an opening act: The Secret Sisters, two sisters from Alabama who performed old school country music. I am no fan of country music, but they captivated me with their harmonies, the songs they sang, and how they connected with the audience. T Bone Burnett produced their first album, and they are currently at work on their second. If you want to be transported musically to Mayberry, and I mean that as a compliment, consider The Secret Sisters.
After this astonishingly good opening act, Paul Simon strolled onto the stage, to a standing ovation, and proved throughout the concert just why he deserved it. Though I would have liked a few more of his Simon & Garfunkel songs, his solo acoustic version of Sounds of Silence answered a question I've had for years: How good would a S&G song be without Garfunkel? Very good indeed, because his guitar playing was so lyrical.
Each of his band members played multiple instruments; one of his two guitarists played a saxaphone, the keyboardist played either the marimba or the vibes, and one of the two percussionists played the washboard in a Zydeco piece. And let me say this: Audiences love Jewish boys who sing gospel (cue Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis).
Simon's lyrics are unique; many of his songs are not the typical love song. Obviously he was politically active in the 60s and what worked then is equally prescient today in the current climate. Carwash and My Little Town, in particular; the latter of which reminded me of Sarah Palin and her talk about small town virtues in a way I'd never considered before when hearing that song.
Some of my favorite moments came when Simon played songs off his landmark Graceland album. I ask you: Who among us does not adore Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes? The only song missing as far as I was concerned was You Can Call Me Al. He came out for two encores, and each time I hoped I'd hear it start, but after his final song in the second encore, Still Crazy After All These Years, the house lights turned up and it was, sadly, over.
In honor of Paul Simon and Graceland, I'm giving away one of two favorite Paul Simon goodies:
(1) A remastered version of Graceland on iTunes.
(2) The 40th anniversary edition of Bridge over Troubled Water, which includes not only the CD, but two DVDs. One reissues S&G's Songs of America documentary and the other is an amazing look into the history of recording BOTW. Earlier this year I watched that history documentary on cable, and loved it so much I bought this CD/DVD set...even though I saved the doc on my DVR and already own BOTW.
If you would like to be eligible to win one of these...the winner can choose between the two...click here and send me an email. Type Paul Simon into the subject line and include in your email whether you want (1) Graceland or (2) Bridge Over Troubled Water, as well as your snail mail address so I can mail your prize if you choose the second option. If you go for the iTunes download, provide the email address associated with your iTunes account. You must live in the U.S. to qualify and I must receive your entry by midnight, Eastern Time, November 11th (I like the symmetry of 11/11/11).