Paul Simon, Still Tender After All These Years
Hit-maker supreme digs in at the first of three Austin shows
By Doug Freeman,
11:00AM, Wed. May 11, 2016
It’s a testament to Paul Simon’s songbook that after Tuesday’s two-hour, 22-song set at Bass Concert Hall, the lights-up music was Frank Sinatra’s cover of “Mrs. Robinson.” The Grammy-winner was but one hit the 74-year-old New Jersey native passed over for the first of three local dates, which conclude Thursday with his debut Austin City Limits taping.
The omissions were hardly missed, given that Simon delivered an impeccably paced, rhythm-rattling career overview.
The stage looked like a world music emporium had been evacuated when his ninepiece band took the stage, warming up on an instrumental of “Proof” before Simon joined in to launch “The Boy in the Bubble.” The set hung heavily on both The Rhythm of the Saints and Graceland, taking full advantage of the multi-instrumentalists juggling through rhythms with both precision and delight.
Simon, likewise, was loose and gained energy throughout the evening, picking up steam on the zydeco-ripped “That Was Your Mother” and the unexpectedly bluesy intro of Bill Dogget’s “Honky Tonk” into “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
“Mother and Child Reunion,” “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard,” and “Duncan” called back to Simon’s eponymous 1972 debut LP, while “Homeward Bound” represented the only Simon & Garfunkel offering pre-encore. Simon began to address the full house more fully by mid-set, recalling his experience with Ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle in introducing “Spirit Voices.”
Although he made no mention of next month’s new album, Stranger to Stranger, its preview “The Werewolf” offered one of the set’s highlights. The song’s dark howl, prowl, and playfully apocalyptic scat charged the band into the closing run of “The Cool, Cool River,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and house-standing “You Can Call Me Al.”
The syncopated shuffle of new single “Wristband” opened the encores before Simon and company dove into “Late in the Evening,” capped by a blistering guitar solo from Mark Stewart. “Still Crazy After All These Years” proved Simon’s vocals still tenderly capable of silencing a crowd.
The final encore likewise struck reverential as the band delivered “The Boxer,” the audience leading the chorus. After a group bow, Simon remained alone onstage to close with a pin-drop acoustic performance of “The Sound of Silence.”
Bass Concert Hall set-list, 5.10.16“Proof” (instrumental) “The Boy in the Bubble” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” “Dazzling Blue” “That Was Your Mother” “Rewrite” “Slip Slidin’ Away” “Mother and Child Reunion” “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” “Spirit Voices” “The Obvious Child” “Duncan” “Homeward Bound” “The Werewolf” “The Cool Cool River” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” “You Can Call Me Al”
Encore“Wristband” “Late in the Evening” “Still Crazy After All These Years”
Second encore“The Boxer” “The Sound of Silence”