Paul Simon / May 25, 2006 / London (Bloomsbury Theatre)
Many of the most memorable days and nights of Paul Simon's performing life have been played out on the world's biggest stages. But in the lead-up to the June 5 international release of his outstandingMany of the most memorable days and nights of Paul Simon's performing life have been played out on the world's biggest stages. But in the lead-up to the June 5 international release of his outstanding new Warner Bros. album "Surprise," he added a new landmark event to his career datebook in front of just 570 people.
London's intimate Bloomsbury Theatre was the setting for this intimate affair, as Simon and his band gave a special concert for media and contest-winning listeners to national AC station BBC Radio 2. He was in a low-key mood, barely speaking to the audience apart from one jokey aside. But if that was disappointing, the music of this enduring, self-renewing songwriter spoke eloquently on his behalf.
Dressed down in T-shirt and jeans, Simon looked his 64 years, but his evocative voice retains the timelessly angelic quality that has soundtracked so many great moments across four decades. He opened with "Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes," establishing an easy confidence in scaling the sonic challenges of his catalog. We called in on "Graceland," made happy stops in the 1960s for "Cecilia" and an ever-poignant "The Boxer," and heard "The Boy in the Bubble" percolating as pleasingly as ever with accordion detail.
Brian Eno, provider of the vivid "sonic landscape" onto which Simon paints the details of his new "Surprise," was not on stage, but the sense of revitalized expressiveness he has helped instill in the artist was palpable. "Outrageous" was, as on the record, a lively, fast-talking highlight, and he included the touching "Father and Daughter," which was released as a commercial single in the U.K. on Monday and which grazed the lower reaches of the chart this week as a
Such are the current commercial considerations of Simon's lifetime in music, but the dates that are stamped on his songs are almost irrelevant, such is their ability to impact successive generations. By the time he sang "Loves Me Like a Rock" and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," he was making his insouciant enjoyment of the evening a little easier to gauge.
Simon returned to the stage with the band for one more selection from the new album, "Wartime Prayers," shook some hands and was gone. But the concert will be brought to an infinitely bigger audience when Radio 2 airs it this Saturday at www.BBC.co.uk.