Paul Simon / Nov. 8, 2006 / Dublin (The Point)

Most people think about retiring when they reach 65, but Paul Simon seems like he's just getting into his stride. Wearing a green shirt and a baseball cap, the singer jigged around the stage of Dublin

Most people think about retiring when they reach 65, but Paul Simon seems like he's just getting into his stride. Wearing a green shirt and a baseball cap, the singer jigged around the stage of Dublin's Point arena like a child let loose in the playground, clearly enjoying hearing his marvelous band bring his songs to life in vivid Technicolor.

Although the latest tour comes on the back of last summer's slow-burning "Surprise" album -- his first new studio outing in six years -- this was mostly a greatest hits set, stretching back over five productive decades.

Launching straight into a couple of songs from his most celebrated solo work, "Graceland" ("Gumboots" and "The Boy in the Bubble"), Simon got the party atmosphere started early. With Vincent Nguini on guitar and Bakithi Kumalo on bass, the buoyant rhythms and joyous melodies of Simon's African adventure shone through.

But the versatility of the band matched the eclectic sweep of the material, and it wasn't long before they were laying down a smooth jazz/funk groove for the gloriously flippant "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" or digging deep with a melancholy trumpet on "Slip Slidin Away'," not the first song of the evening to hum with Simon's trademark existential angst.

Then there were shades of salsa on "Me And Julio Down by the Schoolyard," the Latin groove raising the temperature of the Point on what was a cold winter's night in Dublin. There was even a whistling solo!

Next we were in soul-searching singer/songwriter mode for "Train in the Distance," a gripping examination of the complexities of marriage and relationships. "How Can You Live in the Northeast" found Simon pondering even weightier matters: the world's great religious divide.

In a well-paced set, Simon switched back to party mode for "That Was Your Mother," an accordion-led slice of New Orleans zydeco with instant sax appeal.

One of the highlights of the evening was an intense reading of "Duncan," from Simon's 1972 solo debut: "Even now that sweet memory lingers / I was playin' my guitar / Lying underneath the stars / Just thankin' the Lord for my fingers." It was a nice contrast with the new album's "Father and Daughter," which proved Simon can still write songs that are up close and personal. Even weightier was "Wartime Prayers," which he played solo during the encore and brought the crowd to a pin-drop hush.

From here to the finish, he dusted off many of the crowd-pleasing Simon & Garfunkel favorites, often pepping them up with slightly augmented arrangements. "The Only Living Boy in New York"s was a revelation in its cinematic grandeur, not least because of the stellar backing vocals.

No singer in the world could compete with Art Garfunkel's definitive reading of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Nevertheless, it was great to hear it sung by its author, and he gave it a special twist by playing the first two verses relatively straight on acoustic guitar before beckoning the band to strike up that jubilant African groove again for the final verse, perfectly conveying the hard-won sense of redemption in the denouement.

After nearly an hour of encores, it was finally time for Simon -- a figure so diminutive in physical stature but a colossus in the pantheon of popular music -- to bring the curtain down with a faithful, acoustic solo reading of "Homeward Bound."

Here is Paul Simon's set list:

"The Boy in the Bubble"
"50 Ways"
"Slip Slidin' Away"
"You're the One"
"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"
"Train in the Distance"
"How Can You Live in the Northeast"
"Loves Me Like a Rock"
"That Was Your Mother"
"Father and Daughter
"The Only Living Boy in New York"
"Diamonds on he Soles of Her Shoes"

Encore 1:
"You Can Call Me Al"
"Still Crazy After All These Years"
"Mrs. Robinson"

Encore 2:
"Wartime Prayers"
"Bridge Over Troubled Water"
"Late in the Evening"

Encore 3:
"The Boxer"

Encore 4:
"Homeward Bound"


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