On Wednesday, June 1, 2016 I headed to the historic Hollywood Bowl to see the legendary Paul Simon in concert. I am sure I heard Paul Simon songs as a child, but he didn’t register as an important fixture in my knowledge of music until I was an early teen and I began listening to the music of the Beatles fanatically. From there it was a short stretch to other artists of the 60s and thus began my appreciation of Simon and Garfunkel. I remember a friend playing one of their records in her basement; and distinctly, listening to “The Sound of Silence” as we chatted about junior high school stuff and kept our hands busy building strange things with Lego bricks. Yet, as I listened, I felt the weight of something bigger building around me, that I hadn’t experienced yet, but was out there waiting for me to discover. These two voices singing in beautiful harmony from decades past, sharing their beliefs, telling me what has been, and what I could know if I listened closely. I never thought back then that I would some day see Paul Simon on stage. My dreams where still confined by the small town I lived in and perhaps an anxiety of adventuring into a wider world. And though I paid for my ticket, it felt like a gift to attend this concert.
The Hollywood Bowl is such an iconic venue. The first time I visited it, I was a local playing tourist. My son was interested in the movie “Anchors Aweigh!” at the time and there is a great scene in that movie filmed at the Bowl. I wanted him to see that it was a real place, though of course it has been redesigned since the movie was filmed. I brought my two young sons and my nephew to go through the museum during the daytime. The LA Philharmonic was practicing on the stage that morning and we were allowed to sit in the seats and listen to the music for awhile. The second time there, I attended a Death Cab for Cutie in July 2015, just a couple months before I started this blog, sitting pretty far back in the nosebleed bleacher seats.
Traffic near the bowl was terrible on the evening of the Paul Simon concert — even though I was trying to park in the lot at Hollywood and Highland and not actually drive all the way up to the Bowl. Despite my leaving an extra hour of time for travel issues to the venue, I wasn’t able to make it to my seat on the center aisle, until opener Blake Mills was nearly done with his set. I had been eager to hear Blake, who I’ve seen in the past as a guest at Largo, play his own set, as I think he uses some luscious tones and has a beautiful feel for playing guitar. I did get to see two full songs — one of his own, I believe, and a sublime cover of the Santo & Johnny tune “Sleep Walk.” He announced that he was playing with another Largo regular, musician Tyler Chester. I am hopeful that Blake will play in L.A. again soon, so I can catch more of his music.
I am not going to write in great length about Paul Simon’s set. He’s been doing this job longer than I’ve been alive and is clearly extremely talented and successful as both a writer and a musician. For years he has been admirably penning some of the most well-known songs of our time and has succeeded in showcasing various cultures’ music in a way that is accessible to many different people. Paul Simon’s song choices were fairly friendly for the casual fan, as he played many of his popular pieces along with a few from his new album. He often thanked the audience for their applause and stopped playing briefly only a few times to talk to the crowd. The set opened up with the band playing “Proof” before Simon stepped onstage to sing “The Boy in the Bubble.” From that point on it was a whirlwind trip through 50 years of songs and despite four encores, felt like it was over just as we were getting somewhere. Much credit to Paul Simon’s backing band, for playing with recording quality prowess on multiple instruments for the long evening of music. For more information about the band, check out the breakdown in this effusively-written article on the show.
The set list was as follows:
- “Proof” from Rhythm of the Saints, played as an instrumental
- “The Boy in the Bubble” from Graceland
- “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” from Still Crazy After All These Years
- “Dazzling Blue” from So Beautiful Or So What
- “That Was Your Mother” from Graceland, Paul danced at the start of this one
- “Rewrite” from So Beautiful Or So What
- “Honky Tonk” (Bill Doggett cover) the link is to video of this tune, as well as “Rewrite,” “Slip Slidin’ Away”, and “Mother and Child Reunion” taken by someone at the Hollywood Bowl concert, decent audio, though video looks like they were filming the big screen.
- “Slip Slidin’ Away” from Greatest Hits, Etc.
- “Mother and Child Reunion” from Paul Simon
- “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” from Paul Simon
- “Spirit Voices” from Rhythm of the Saints , Paul gave quite a detailed introduction to this song about being in South America and drinking an herbal brew, Ayahuasca, after doing so he was told he was “going to see the anaconda.” Snippets of the story here and here from the show.
- “The Obvious Child” from Rhythm of the Saints
- “Stranger to Stranger” from new album Stranger to Stranger
- “Homeward Bound” from the Simon & Garfunkel album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, Paul introduced this by saying, “That’s a new song (Stranger to Stranger) and here’s an old song.” One of my favorite songs, and a highlight of the night. I’ve used a line from the song for the post title. I feel like I am “home” when I am listening to live music.
- “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” from the Simon & Garfunkel album Bridge Over Troubled Water, played as an instrumental
- “Duncan” from Paul Simon
- “The Werewolf” from new album Stranger to Stranger, the drummer donned a wolf head mask
- “The Cool, Cool River” from Rhythm of the Saints
- “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” from Graceland
- “You Can Call Me Al” from Graceland, finally the whole crowd is standing at Paul’s encouragement
- ENCORE 1: “Wristband” from new album Stranger to Stranger
- “Graceland” from Graceland, link is to video I shot at the concert
- ENCORE 2: “Still Crazy After All These Years” from Still Crazy After All These Years
- ENCORE 3: “Late in the Evening” from One-Trick Pony
- “The Boxer” from the Simon & Garfunkel album Bridge Over Troubled Water, played with Blake Mills on guitar, after the song finished Paul says he hopes to play with Blake again
- ENCORE 4: “The Sound of Silence” from Simon & Garfunkel album Sounds of Silence, Paul played this one solo acoustic. Another highlight for me.