Paul Simon played songs from his new album plus old favourites


Paul Simon

Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow


Both as one half of Simon & Garfunkel and as a solo artist in his own right of four decades' standing, New Jersey boy Paul Simon has amassed a reputation as a bastion of easy listening. Happily for the reverent fans who crammed into the Clyde Auditorium here, however, listening that's easy doesn't have to be listening that's dull or unambitious.

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Backed by eight musicians, many of them multi-instrumentalists, Simon delivered a set which was rich in sonic texture and intricate arrangements, but which breezed by in a fresh burst of intuitive pop songwriting.

Often dismissed amidst a flurry of generational prejudices, Simon used his live set to restake a claim as a musician of enduring ability and emotion. In the rare position of touring with a new album to promote (So Beautiful or So What, his first since Rhythm of the Saints 21 years ago), neither he nor we were let down by new songs which fitted in seamlessly with a stage set-up designed predominantly to accommodate the African influences of his Graceland album.

Regularly cited as one of the 1980s' great coffee table purchases, the latter record was presented here as one primed for rediscovery through tracks like Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Gumboots and Crazy Love Part II, each abetted by the crackling percussion rhythms of original Graceland collaborator Bakithi Kumalo.

His familiar, wistful, almost conversational New York style of songwriting was revisited in new tracks like The Afterlife and Questions For the Angels, the latter slice of portmanteau storytelling containing one striking moment where Simon bemoaned the consumerist staleness of metropolitan life in a single street scene: "It's Jay-Z / he's got a kid on each knee / he's wearing clothes that he wants us to try." The reference was voguishly agreeable rather than try-hard from the 69-year-old.

Restricted to solo material (perhaps he's saving the rest for a recently hoped-for reunion tour with Art Garfunkel), his earliest hits were represented by The Only Living Boy in New York and a shining solo acoustic version of The Sound of Silence, its arrival accompanied by an audible swoon from the crowd. Two encores later, including the nostalgic rock 'n' roll throwback Kodachrome, a warm, accordion-led cover of the Beatles' Here Comes the Sun and the sedate closer Still Crazy After All These Years, people were thronging to the front of the stage to eagerly shake his hand. It was no less than he deserved.

David Pollock

A version of this review appeared in later editions of The Scotsman on Saturday

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