Paul Simon at Rogers Arena, 5/16/18
Legendary American singer-songwriter, activist and actor Paul Simon kicked off his farewell pilgrimage at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena Wednesday night. Moreover, while the Homeward Bound tour’s production crew may have looked at the first show of a four-month-long stint on the road as a rough draft, Simon and his 15-person band were in tremendous form during the 25-song trip down memory lane.
Choosing to begin the night with “America,” Simon stoked the audience flames with the first of six Simon & Garfunkel songs throughout the night. The always witty Simon took the time to speak with the audience after “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”: “This is the first show of what we are calling the farewell tour. I lied about the final. I was just trying to raise the ticket prices”.
Simon let the crowd in on his jest. “Yeah, this is it.” As sure as Simon is about the Homeward Bound tour being his last, it is obvious that the folk music sensation, with work spanning seven decades, is not as concrete about what that means regarding continuing to create (or evolve) his art.
“I don’t know what ‘it’ is. Is this about the final iteration of these songs? Is this, where I am freezing them? I honestly don’t know what the thing is. With me being emotionally behind the curve it usually takes me awhile to figure it out.”
Wednesday night’s showcase of over two dozen songs was curated in as beautiful a fashion as is each of Simon’s timeless classics. Brilliantly weaving between fan favourites and a couple of tracks that Simon “thought were really worth hearing but have never been performed live,” the two and a half hour show flew by in what felt like half that time.
Not content with merely regurgitating old hits, Simon juxtaposed his own lesser-known tracks with updated versions of fan favourites such as, “You Can Call Me Al,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Graceland,” and Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” among others.
Collaborating with six members of the ensemble yMusic for “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” as well as with “Can’t Run But,” Simon’s songwriting highlighted the beautiful melodies interwoven into the instrumental-heavy tracks.
No Paul Simon show would be complete with a nod to 1986’s Graceland, the seventh and most commercially successful solo Simon studio album, which features an unmistakable South African sound throughout. “The Boy in the Bubble,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” “You Can Call Me Al,” “That Was Your Mother,” and the record’s titular track were all given a breath of new life with Simon’s ever-curious mindset of tweaking or altering his music for impossible perfection.
Encoring no less than three times, 10 of Simon’s songs as laid out for the band ahead of time came after the first curtain call.
The opening night of the tour saw some technical glitches in the way of a sporadically malfunctioning video screen (spanning the entire length of the stage), as well as the director not always calling for a shot of the musician who was most active at the time. However, one would expect to see these production oversights ironed out as the tour continues and concludes with three nights in New York, come September.
Ending the night the same way he began, with a Simon & Garfunkel hit, the 76-year-old chose “The Sound of Silence” after urging the young people in the audience to pay attention to the health of the planet. In a profound discourse with his audience that placed a priority in our role as humans to protect the environment, Simon exited the stage with final words (derived from a Spanish proverb) that punctuate how hard it must be to begin the letting-go process and say goodbye. “We are not mountains. We will meet again.”
Paul Simon Setlist
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
El Condor Pasa (If I Could)
The Cool, Cool River
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al
Still Crazy After All These Years
Late in the Evening
Questions and Angels
The Sound of Silence