In an earlier post I mentioned that I would be seeing Paul Simon one more time as he concluded his live music career with a farewell tour.
And this was it.
With a lot of performers you don’t really believe them when they announce a tour is going to be the last. It’s usually just a gimmick to boost ticket sales.
I saw Manilow’s One Last Time tour a couple of years ago, yet there he was again last weekend popping up in Manchester.
Gary Numan claimed he was retiring from live performance some time around 1981. Hasn’t stopped him touring relentlessly.
But Paul Simon’s announcement, you felt, would be the real deal. He doesn’t strike me as being a huckster showman wringing a few extra pay days out of his fans by baiting with them a ‘this might be the last time’ teaser.
So me, Gill and my mum took our seats – which weren’t next to each other for some reason, and I think you can guess who was made to take the single – to watch a masterclass by as fine a songwriter as has ever picked up a guitar.
If you think the last statement is hyperbole, then the songs he left out of his set would be a greatest hits for practically any other artist.
Opening with America the signs weren’t great. His voice sounded a little strained and the band weren’t quite as locked in as you imagined they would be.
But it was a temporary blip.
For the next couple of hours we were treated to a career encapsulating collection of songs and plenty of lively chat – something we’ve not always been accustomed to hearing from New York’s lyric poet.
He even mentioned ‘the railway station where they put up a plaque’ just before singing Homeward Bound.
That’s right. Paul Simon giving Widnes its due.
He also did a pretty good impression of a Northern social club compere quietening the audience after the bingo and asking punters to ‘come on, give the lad a chance’. A reference to his early days working the club circuit as a young folkie.
And from those days he came a long, long way.
Find fault with a set containing Bridge over Troubled Water, You Can Call Me Al, Sound of Silence, The Boxer, Late in the Evening, Kodachrome, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard and Graceland amongst others and I’m not sure you can call yourself a music lover.
I was quite emotional when he finished and it’s hard to explain why although I think I wasn’t just contemplating his career and the beauty of so many of his compositions, but also that we were witnessing another chapter closing in the songbook of our lives.