Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paul Simon at BAM

I know it's old news, but I have just been too busy.
I bought tickets to the three concerts of the Paul Simon residence at BAM. Why? Because I love his music. I don't understand why people don't like him more. As far as I'm concerned, he is the true heir to the classic American songbook, on a par with the likes of Cole Porter and all those other fabulous songwriters of yore. So the first night was songs from The Capeman, his failed musical about Salvador Agrón, a Puerto Rican youth convicted of murder in the 50s. I was unfamiliar with the music so I was curious. Some of the songs were gorgeous, particularly the doo wop ones. The Puerto Rican artists played and sang and danced their hearts out. The Latin swing was palpable.
The second night, which was supposed to be the African influenced night, with performances by David Byrne, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Milton Nascimento, well, that night I went to the movies, ate popcorn, went for a walk, had a beer, shpatzired up and down, and came home to find the tickets on my desk. AAARGGGGHHHH. Shit happens. I heard it was great. I hope this doesn't happen to me for my Radiohead tickets on August 8th.
The third night (this is starting to sound like a Passover seder), was dedicated to his American music. The artists were a motley mix of the great (Gillian Welch, The Roches, Olu Dara, Amos Lee, Simon's inimitable band) and the not so great (Josh Groban, Grizzly Bear), but the songs, yikes, classics all. So many songs they sang and for every song, I could think of another two great songs of Paul Simon. Some of the artists cheated on the lyrics, which is as heretical as deciding not sing all the lyrics of Cole Porter, in my humble opinion. Simon's melodies are gorgeous, but the lyrics are killer. They counteract the sweetness of the melodies, with wisdom and irony and edge.
The tiny man himself is a slightly ornery performer, but the night I saw him he warmed up to his extremely deserved standing ovations and to the spirited playing of the guest artists. His voice doesn't reach the beautiful top notes it used to, but it is still sweet and he knows how to camouflage it well.
I love his music. He is a giant.

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