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Concert Reviews:
Paul Simon rhymes sublime at Meadow Brook

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2016

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ROCHESTER HILLS -- Jimmy Buffett may not mind beach balls careening around the crowd like a war zone, but Paul Simon was having none of that on Sunday night, June 19, at the Meadow Brook Amphitheatre.

“Do me a favor; Kill the ball,” Simon said early in the show, as one of the multi-colored orbs -- though not scores like they were at Buffett’s show 24 hours prior just up the road at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- bounced through the pavilion. “We just work too hard on music to have a beach ball bouncing around.”

That effort was evident throughout Simon’s two-hour and 10-minute concert, a characteristically sublime and thrilling affair that showcased his 50-year-plus recording career, from “The Sound of Silence” through selections from his recently released “Stranger To Stranger” album. It also caught Simon, whose list of honors runs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Kennedy Center Honors to the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize For Popular Song -- at another high point; the ambitious and experimental “Stranger To Stranger” is Simon’s highest debut on the Billboard 200 chart (No. 3) and is his first No. 1 album in the U.K. since 1990.

But Simon wasn’t ramming the new stuff down his fans’ throats, though “Stranger To Stranger’s” title track, “The Werewolf” and particularly the vibey “Wristband” were all intriguing additions to his repertoire. Mostly, it was a night to celebrate his stellar history, primarily the exceptional one-two punch of 1986’s “Graceland” and 1990’s “The Rhythm of the Saint” but also reaching back for favorites from Simon & Garfunkel and his early solo career. And the nuanced arrangements were delivered with authority by Simon’s nimble nine-piece band, playing on a set that looked like a musical instrument thrift shop -- up to and including a didgeridoo.

There was an abundance of highlights, and you could certainly make a case for every song. Simon -- his own voice huskier, deeper and even richer at 74 than on many of his recordings -- had the crowd singing along to the likes of “Mother and Child Reunion,” “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” “Slip Slidin’ Away” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” and “The Boxer.” Deeper cuts such as “Dazzling Blue,” “Rewrite,” the New Orleans-flavored “That Was Your Mother,” the dynamic gems “The Obvious Child” and “The Cool, Cool River” were nicely framed within the hits.

And the pairing of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “You Can Call Me Al” along with the buoyant encore “I Know What I Know” and “Late in the Evening” turned the boomer-dominated crowd into a dance-party frenzy -- with some young ‘uns on the law even leaping onto the roof above the sound mixing station until security guards ushered them off.

Simon finished on his own with “The Sound of Silence” -- another singalong that sent the Meadow Brook audience satisfied they’d spent the evening with an artist still in peak form and fully deserving of his legendary status.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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