Toledo Zoo Amphitheater, July 2 2006; photo courtesy of Ladydibluescorner.com
(Toledo, OH) Attending a concert of Paul Simon is like spending an evening with an old friend: you laugh a little, reminisce about days gone by, and catch up on what that person has been doing over the last few years.
Simon is on the road promoting his new album Surprise, and he sprinkled cuts from the disc throughout the 21-song, 100-minute set. Particularly striking was the song "Father and Daughter," with the evocative line "There could never be a father who loved his daughter more than I love you."
There was a decided Bakersfield twang to a number of standards, including "Mrs. Robinson," which had also added a funky backbeat. His acoustic guitar rang crisp and clear across the cloudy sky, which for the most part held back on predicted showers.
The gritty Buck Owens-esque rhythm guitar also shone on the song "Graceland," which featured a bit of punchy honky-tonk not found in the original. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" received a reggaefied treatment in the updated version performed by his eight-piece band.
Simon reminded the audience that he "used to be in this group called Simon and Garfunkel," generating laughter.
"In which I played Paul Simon," he deadpanned.
I initially thought I would make some wisecracks about the average age of the crowd, which appeared to be about 50 (I saw my first walker-aided concertgoer tonight). As the show went on, however, my cynicism passed in favor of recognition that there were many teens and twenty-somethings in the crowd; I realized that Simon's incredible lyricism has stood the test of time, and the younger audience members sang along with those, well, older than me.
Like an old friend, too, Simon has a way of making powerful comments in an understated way, sneaking up on you like a quiet conscience. From "Slip Sliding Away:"
God only knows, God makes his plan
The information's unavailable to the mortal man
We're working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway, when in fact we're slip sliding away
It was good to see you again, Paul. Thanks for gracing Toledo with a memorable show on this 21-date tour.