Songs from every era of Paul Simon’s long career were highlighted last night (April 24) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as the artist’s month-long concert residency continued.
It was the second night of his third and last installment, dubbed “American Tunes,” of the “Love in Hard Times: The Music of Paul Simon” series. Select artists and Simon himself recreated songs that spanned from his early beginnings with Art Garfunkel through his latest album, 2006’s “Surprise.”
The Roches, who reformed for the first time in 11 years last year, kicked off the night by performing “American Tune,” then went into “Another Galaxy” and a harmony-heavy “Cecelia.” The man of the night stepped up for “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and a countrified version “Mrs. Robinson,” helped along with a wah-wah-pedaled guitar solo.
Grizzly Bear, which often covers Simon’s “Graceland” at its own shows, tackled that tune as well as a harmony-stacked, slowed “Mother and Child Reunion.” Bluesman Olu Dara and his grooving backing band played extended versions of “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “Still Crazy After All These Years.” “I was talking to the security guards earlier,” he quipped, smiling, “and I told ’em, ‘I’m with Paul.'”
Singing “Silent Eyes” and “America,” classical/pop superstar Josh Groban also had the honor of trading verses with Simon on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Amos Lee was next, offering up a solo “Peace Like a River,” “Nobody” and a full-band “Homeward Bound”; the audience, who seemed largely unfamiliar with Lee, was on its feet by the end of his short set.
The crowd was especially reactive to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ interpretations of “Gone at Last” (“I’ve played this song since I was nine,” Welch exclaimed) and “Duncan” before Simon joined the two on a meditative “Sound of Silence.” Simon and his band then banged out a spirited “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,” “Train in the Distance” and How Can You Live in the Northeast?”
The Roches (who aided Simon on his 1973 album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon) backed the songwriter on “Only Living Boy in New York.” Appropriately, the celebration ended with “Late in the Evening.”
The “American Tunes” portion of the sold-out series continues through Sunday. Earlier segments of “Love in Hard Times” featured his African-inspired tunes during “Under African Skies” as well as “Song from The Capeman.” Simon will also appear at BAM on May 5 in conversation with composer Philip Glass; he and his band will be on tour in Europe this summer, beginning July 1 in Reykjavík.