Under an almost full moon in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park on a mild Saturday (Sept. 22) night, Paul Simon — who introduced poetic element and literary scope to in style music as a part of Simon & Garfunkel earlier than embarking on a stylistically adventurous solo profession that netted 21 Streets Talkin Hot 100 hits and two Grammy album of the yr wins — delivered the ultimate present of his farewell tour. And whereas he’d simply performed two different hometown finale exhibits at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 20-21, this one was particular: The 76-year-old artist was bidding goodbye on a stage simply “a 20-minute bike experience” from the place he grew up.
Playing your last-ever stay present to an adoring crowd of 1000’s not removed from the place you spent your childhood must be a head journey, and Simon appeared very cognizant of that actuality as he regarded out on the gang after a hushed efficiency of “The Sound of Silence” introduced the two-and-a-half-hour present to an in depth. “It means greater than you’ll be able to know,” he advised the viewers earlier than strolling off stage and into retirement from touring (Simon has made it clear he’s not retiring from rhymin’ within the studio, nonetheless).
That second of Wild Strawberries-esque reflection apart, the temper of the evening was overwhelmingly celebratory, extra foolish than severe. Simon thrives on stage as a raconteur, sharing private tales and askew quips in between songs. While explaining how the tune “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” traces again to Joan Baez’s ebook assortment (Baez, by the best way, supplied a rave assessment of Simon’s Thursday MSG present when she performed NYCs Beacon Theater on Friday), fireworks began popping off a couple of miles away. With fake exasperation, Simon pointed at them and drolly requested, “Could you maintain up the fireworks? I’m attempting to inform a narrative about Rene Magritte.”
Following a buoyant “Kodachrome” — which opens with the authority-flaunting lyric about “all of the crap I realized in highschool” — Simon regarded within the route of his close by alma mater and mentioned, “Yeah, take that Forest Hills High School,” earlier than chuckling and admitting, “Actually, I had fun there.”
Forest Hills High School bought a shout out earlier within the set, too — and impressed slightly athletic diversion. “This is 2 miles from the place I performed highschool baseball,” Simon mirrored. “It’s slightly bit darkish, however you recognize what? I believe I’m gonna play a fast sport of catch.”
He wasn’t joking. Simon picked up a glove and threw a baseball into the gang at least 3 times, with fortunate viewers members tasked with tossing it again to him. It most likely wasn’t the most secure exercise contemplating the megawatt stage lights boring into Simon’s eyes, however impressively sufficient, after two failed makes an attempt, the third toss arrived squarely in Simon’s ready glove, eliciting massive cheers from the gang (and doubtless a couple of relieved sighs from the stage arms).
Between the baseball and his dancing (he busted out some fancy footwork in the course of the Zydeco hoedown in “That Was Your Mother”), it’s clear Simon isn’t calling it a day on touring as a result of he’s slowing down. He places on a hell of a stay present, performing emotively and studying every lyric like a grasp thespian. Classical sextet yMusic augments his songs with a pointed urgency (significantly on the In the Blue Light association of “Can’t Run But), and his rollicking rock band bursts with an irrepressible power on upbeat numbers like “Late In the Evening,” which noticed Simon incorporate a little bit of Little Richard’s “Lucille,” and “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” The latter was a selected delight: His spouse, Edie Brickell, trotted out to handle that iconic whistling part, and, after all, the gang whooped with glee to listen to Simon sing about “Rosie queen of Corona” in Corona Park.
With 5 songs from the towering inventive achievement that’s Graceland, 5 Simon & Garfunkel classics and the overwhelming majority of his solo hits current and accounted for, there wasn’t a lot to quibble with relating to the set checklist. Even the songs informal followers won’t be acquainted with — the aforementioned “Magritte” and “Can’t Run But,” or 2011’s “Dazzling Blue” — are such immaculate compositions that the gang remained transfixed when he performed them, as an alternative of retreating into their telephones or leaving for the lavatory en masse.
All this, after all, makes it significantly unhappy Simon is completed touring. Every fervent spherical of applause felt bittersweet; behind your thoughts, you realized this was the final time you’d be handled to one in every of rock’s most constant skills performing songs which are indelibly a part of our collective cultural material. You don’t have to have been a part of the ‘60s counterculture to see reflections of your self in fantastically articulated existential anthems like “America” and “The Sound of Silence,” and also you needn’t be a divorcee trying to find route to be deeply moved by “Graceland” or “The Boy In the Bubble.” The common enchantment in Simon’s songwriting was mirrored within the crowd, which — whereas dominated by boomers — was stuffed with twenty and thirtysomethings dancing, singing and passing alongside smiles from stranger to stranger.
There’s one thing about an open-air New York City live performance that fosters a way of short-term togetherness. That was definitely heightened by the implicit historicity of the occasion — significantly given Simon’s previous triumphs with out of doors NYC live shows, from his legendary 1981 Central Park reunion with Art Garfunkel to his 1991 return to the Park for a packed viewers. Realistically, with the top-notch musicianship, heat banter and baseball diversion, it’s a good wager that Saturday’s live performance will go down in Paul Simon lore as a necessary stay outing in a profession punctuated by them.
For a finale, this one was good.