We can be sure of at least two things that Paul Simon loves: the first is rhythm, as evidenced by the multiples of percussive kits scattered across the 3Arena stage; the second, apparently, is encores, because at his gig on Monday night he played four. That’s right, four encores. Not impromptu encores mind, but the kind that are carefully stage managed. No wonder there was no support act: with 3Arena’s strict curfew there simply would not have been time.
A third thing that Paul Simon clearly enjoys is performing. He bears none of the hallmarks of a pay check collector and looks to be genuinely enjoying himself as he takes a rapt audience right through his back catalogue and doesn’t spare us the hits.
Things start off politely – this is a fully-seated concert after all with the majority of attendees bearing at least a few grey hairs. After the beautiful Dazzling Blue he says he has no problem with anyone getting up to dance, but it still feels a little early for an Irish crowd. America, the old Simon and Garfunkel song, sounds particularly poignant this evening given the recent upheaval in the old U.S. of A: “Countin’ the cars on the New Jersey turnpike / They’ve all come to look for America, all come to look for America”.
The first hint of a few bums beginning to move on seats comes with Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, but still mass movement is resisted. Obvious Child seemed like it should be the song to get everyone up and moving but it falls a little flat, the band not doing justice to its big polyrhythms. His voice is at its best when it moves effortlessly through the thicket of his lyrics, unburdened by over-instrumentation.
We are given the opening bars of El Condor Pasa but this disappointingly turns out to be a tease as it segues into Duncan. Of the songs from his latest album, ‘Stranger To Stranger’, The Werewolf is the standout in its wonderful weirdness. It is prefaced by a classic Simon story of far flung travels in India where he discovered this one-string instrument which he decided sounded like the howl of a werewolf.
The irresistible double whammy of Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al finally has venue bouncing but is it too late as the band walk off stage? Not a bit of it. After a short break a gracious Simon returns with the sleazy groove of Wristband followed by a disappointingly lacklustre Graceland. The power-balladry of Still Crazy After All These Years sees the stage vacated once more.
Dipping ever further into his own back catalogue they re-emerge with Late In The Evening from 1980’s ‘One-Trick Pony’ and One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor from his somewhat embarrassingly-titled ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’ album from 1973. The crowd try their best to resist clapping along to The Boxer to no avail, but they would happily have “lie-la-lie’d” their way right through ‘til dawn.
As more and more of the crowd begin to stream out of the venue it is clear they do not know the rules of encores (read more here https://www.goldenplec.com/featured/the-encore-do-we-want-more/). Simon emerges solo and plays the Sound Of Silence. Surprisingly, these old Simon And Garfunkel songs do not suffer the lack of Garfunkel’s harmony, deconstructed just enough that it is not missed.
It’s been about an hour since Simon and co. left the stage for the first time and still they come back for more. I Know What I Know has everyone dancing again, and finally, Bridge Over Troubled Water sees what seems like a genuinely humble legend leave the stage. At seventy five it really is an extraordinary performance, with not a hint of age creeping into his voice or his bones. He has obviously stocked up on secret elixirs on his travels through the Amazon, Africa and beyond.