Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound-The Farewell Tour At The Hollywood Bowl, Wednesday May 23rd 2018
A few weeks ago, I was at the Hollywood Bowl for a double bill, LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the weather was summer-like hot… On Wednesday, I was back at the Bowl for Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound – The Farewell tour and it was winter-like cold… how did the weather know what mood to adopt? A farewell tour is not a hot thing, it’s a rather sad and cold feeling to be honest, at best it’s a nostalgic reflection on a life, but it certainly announces the end of something, it’s a cold thing
The public was obviously very different in both cases, older this time, and people were more preoccupied by having a glass of rosé with Asian chicken salad than shaking their body in the pit… and there was no pit for me this time because there was no GA pit, instead, there were expensive seats where I was dancing myself clean a few weeks ago.
They say you always have a special connection with the music you listened to when you were a teenager, and I have indeed a special bond with Paul Simon’s songs even though I haven’t listened to him for a while. But they are in me, part of my DNA, and there’s no need to be reminded about them constantly. Simon occupies a special place in the American music landscape, a New York boy getting a No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts during the British Invasion, he was post Elvis and pre-punk new wave, he was Dylan rival and friend, before being African music resurrected, and at 76 years old, he manages to sell out the Hollywood Bowl 3 times. I had rarely seen so many people there, as it took us a very long time to leave the place.
If it is really a farewell tour, there will never be another Paul Simon concert at the bowl or anywhere else, right? Simon has been clear, he may play again for some special occasion, but this is his last tour and I kept this thought in my mind the entire night.
If it was a farewell, it was not a sad one, it was a joyous celebration of a brilliant career, although the show definitively focused on Simon’s solo efforts. There was not much Simon and Garfunkel material, beside the obvious classics such as ‘America’, ‘The Boxer’, ‘Sound of Silence’ and ‘Homeward Bound’, the title of the tour. May be he was homeward bound and ready to go home for good after a 50-year long career, but, on Wednesday night, Simon looked like a tiny Duracell bunny from my faraway seat, he kept playing for more than 2 hours, coming back for an encore, then a second one, then a third one… the ads were already rolling on the Jumbotrons but Simon was still serenading us with ‘Sound of Silence’. All night long, Simon’s strong vocals soared high above the music, the voice was not dying, never, it wasn’t definitively showing any sign of dying.
Saying that there was a highlight of the concert would completely depends on which song is your favorite, obviously the Graceland cuts, like ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her shoes’ or ‘The Boy in the Bubble’, made the crowd dance of joy, but the older ones like ‘Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover’ and ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ were also received with plenty of enthusiasm.
Simon was surrounded by a large team of musicians, I may have counted 14 of them, playing saxophones, trumpets, keyboard, flutes, strings, cellos, accordion beside the usual guitars, bass and 2 drumsets with percussion,…There was an abundance of sound at each song, with subtle variations but the mix was never saturated. There was the full reggae blast of ‘Mother and Child Reunion’, the delicate and rare ‘Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War’, a song Simon introduced with a story explaining he had picked a book with this title while waiting at Joan Baez’s house… ‘What a great title for a song… now what this song could possibly be about?’ The cellos and the horns replaced the ‘50s R&B groups used in the original song , while a trumpet quartet and a subtle orchestration surrounded a guitar-less Paul Simon standing in the middle during ‘Can’t Run But’. Simon danced at the infectious Cajun-inspired ‘That was Your Mother’, and ‘Wristband’ became a clap song with an upright bass and a jazzy arrangement. Before ‘Spirit Voices’, Simon introduced with lumps in the throat the new Nigerian guitarist replacing Vincent Nguini, who passed away last year and had played with him since the recording of ‘Graceland’.
Earlier, Simon had expressed his joy of playing the second night of a run because ‘attendees were the real music lovers’, and the type that ‘understands the significance of buying merchandise on a final tour,’ he joked… And just to confirm this, he decided to play the ‘Obvious Child’ twice, at the crowd’s request.
‘Questions For the Angels’ was a rare moment with Simon almost alone on stage while name-checking Jay Z, but soon the full orchestration came back with the powerful ’The Cool Cool River’ and Simon’s voice rising in the night with the hopeful ‘I believe in the future? I may live in my car/ My radio tuned to/ The Voice of a star’. ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’ back to back sounded like a mini Graceland party, then came the encores, with oldies and ‘Homeward Bound, a reflective moment with projections of images of his career, or ‘The Boxer’… how could Paul Simon have a farewell tour without playing his poor boy song? The encores naturally brought more West African guitars and South African trumpets, the essence of many songs, proving one more time that Simon is a master, and a thief, but surely a master who continues to give back.
I have seen Paul Simon many times in the past and it was hard to believe that this vision of Simon alone on stage singing his iconic hit ‘Sound of Silence’ was the last one… ever of the kind? If it was a farewell, but it didn’t sound like one, it was a joyous celebration crowded with music layers. It was not announcing any end and that was the strangest part of the show.
America (Simon & Garfunkel song)
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
The Boy in the Bubble
That Was Your Mother
Mother and Child Reunion
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War
Can’t Run But
The Obvious Child (played twice)
Questions for the Angels
The Cool, Cool River
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al
Still Crazy After All These Years
Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel song)
The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Late in the Evening
The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel song)