Paul Simon Live at the RDS, Dublin, 13th July 2018
They say that Dublin is one of the best cities in the world when the sun is shining and this is no more apparent than at outdoor concerts. It’s Friday 13th July and the green surrounding the RDS is dotted with people, old and young, basking in the evening sunlight and enjoying overpriced pizzas and beers as they await this evening’s concert to commence. Unlike Longitude, which is taking place a few miles south of the city in Marlay Park, the atmosphere of this concert is reserved, deferential. You’ll find no floundering, drunken teenagers and glittered faces here.
Paul Simon, now aged 76, is donning a shimmering silver jacket (and head of hair) but he needn’t have made the effort – his mere presence is enough to send flurries of delight through the 18,000 capacity venue which is only a few spaces short of being totally full. It takes some time for the rapturous applause to die down and when it finally does, the opening hum of America sounds the start of the set, quickly followed by the infectious 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover. There are few iPhones dangling in the air capturing the songs on camera; Simon’s fans enjoy each moment and song as it comes and cheer fervently in between.
This Farewell tour was not a modest undertaking for the singer-songwriter by any means; tonight is the penultimate show of the 31 date tour which spanned the US, Canada and Europe. Unlike other large concerts that have visited the city in recent months, there are no pyro-technics or large lighting displays – Simon’s music and mere presence is enough to elicit the same exuberant response.
Instead of spending his budget on visual displays, he boasts an impressive (and large) band of world class musicians from all over the globe including West Africa and the US; string quartets, brass combos and percussionists scurry on and off stage throughout the set. He pays a heart-warming tribute to his late guitarist and friend Vincent Nguini before Spirit Voices, which later blends into the fan favourite You Can Call Me Al.
Simon is in high spirits, sharing anecdotes about his writing process and his six-decade spanning career. After That Was Your Mother, he reminiscences about asking his father to teach him some chords on the guitar all those years ago.
The set list has been carefully crafted to include songs that span Simon’s solo career as well as a number of Simon and Garfunkel numbers. Favourites such as Bridge Over Troubled Water and Late In The Evening are perhaps received better than some of his newer material, but only marginally; “He better play The Boxer” says a teacher from Kerry as the evening stretches on and the sky darkens. Her wish is granted some time later during the stunning encore which also includes Still Crazy After All These Years, Homeward Bound and The Sound Of Silence.
The audience are reluctant to leave as Simon finally exits the stage after almost 3 hours, and those ambitious enough to stay on in the hope he might play one more admit defeat after 10 minutes or so. It’s hard not to feel the sense of community within the audience as they amble slowly out of the arena, united in their common adoration of the timeless tunes they have just heard live, perhaps for the last time.
After all these years, Dublin is still crazy for Paul Simon.