photos by Ryan Barkan, words by Andrew Sacher
Being that I'm admittedly too young to have seen Paul Simon in his prime, I wasn't totally sure what to expect from his BV-presented Webster Hall show last night (6/6). After watching him deliver a 26 song set, which failed to show any signs of slowing down, I lost sight of all expectations I had and embraced the fact that Paul Simon was just straight up impressive. The set spanned his entire career from his days in Simon & Garfunkel through his recently released So Beautiful or So What, and also included a few covers. The songs off So Beautiful or So What resonated as strongly as his earlier material and blended right in. During the song "Rewrite" I even found myself debating over which of his albums the song was on, only to later realize it was in fact a new one. The entire set was so consistent that choosing any sort of standout is difficult, though if I had to say, When Paul and his band flowed seamlessly from Jimmy Cliff's "Vietnam" into Paul's own classic, "Mother and Child Reunion," I was pleasantly caught off guard.
The real treats, however, came during the encores. After a massive end to the initial set, Paul and band left the stage only for Paul to return with nothing more than an acoustic guitar. He provided some foreshadowing guitar which eventually built into an extremely intimate version of the Simon & Garfunkel staple "Sounds of Silence." Contrasted with a largely upbeat set, that small dose of melancholy left the audience still, silent, and possibly even more captivated. The impact that song holds almost 50 years later isn't matched by many, and Paul Simon's still-strong deliverance is matched by even less. Paul's band returned to the stage and the encore continued for three more songs including a rendition of the George Harrison-penned "Here Comes the Sun."
When the first encore finished and the stage crew scrambled to set up another mic stand, it was obvious that the band was returning for a second encore. But little did I know, the second mic was being set up for none other than David Byrne. The fellow worldbeat loving New Yorker sounds like the most appropriate guest on paper (except for maybe Art Garfunkel) and it was even more than that in real life. As mentioned, David, Paul, and band performed Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere" and Graceland favorite "You Can Call Me Al." Byrne left the stage and Paul Simon and band played two more, appropriately including "Still Crazy After All These Years," before taking their final bows and exiting the stage after playing "Crazy Love, Vol. II".
Check out more pictures from the show below...
PAUL SIMON + DAVID BYRNE Road To Nowhere WEBSTER HALL NYC June 6 2011
Paul Simon + David Byrne - You Can Call Me Al - Live In NYC