Paul Simon is still crazy after all these years — crazy delightful, that is.
On Tuesday night, Paul Simon played the first show of his two-night engagement at the Orpheum. The show was slated to start at eight, but when I arrived at 8:03 p.m. there were still people lined up down the block outside of the theater. The weather was rainy and muggy; the tornado warnings would not go away until 10. Still, everyone was grinning.
On a beautifully designed set inside an elegant theater, Simon stood with his nine-piece band. The carefully curated set list flowed from new to old. Each song, however, was treated with the same kind of respect. Instead of rushing through the old as a sort of necessity, giving the audience what they wanted, Simon seemed to enjoy the performance of all his work equally.
The performance of “The Werewolf,” a song off of Simon’s newest album “Stranger to Stranger” contained howls and a litany of riffs. “Wristband,” also on Simon’s new album, was another fan favorite.
Though no one necessarily knew the lyrics by heart, they all stood to dance.
“Hello, my friends!” Simon shouted to the audience after a few songs, throwing in a little comment about how he had appeared on Prairie Home Companion back in February. “But … that’s in St. Paul,” Simon said.
There was unanimous agreement throughout the audience on how to react to each song. “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” called for dancing. Singing along to the first verse of “Homeward Bound” was welcomed, but the remainder of the song was best heard in its purest form. A silent audience hung on every word.
I took eleven pages of notes throughout the night, not wanting to miss a thing. I noted Simon’s silver sports coat and how it perfectly matched every color scheme projected onto the stage. I noted audience demographics and what they were wearing. The thing that stuck out to me the most, however, was the joyful laughter around me. I was not exempt from the giggles.
As Simon’s small frame commanded the stage his hands would not stay still. Playing guitar or moving to the music, he would often throw them into the air. Sometimes he would wiggle his fingers to the beat. The audience mimicked this behavior.
Simon and his band played three encores. At the end of the first, Simon’s band left him alone on the stage. Clasping his hands before placing them over his heart, he stared into the audience. Utterly gracious. Content.
Although Simon closed the show with 1964’s Simon and Garfunkel classic “The Sound of Silence,” the audience was anything but quiet. As people streamed out into the lobby with smiles still on their faces, they chatted excitedly about the dreamy night.
“That was fabulous,” one woman said, noticing me scribbling notes. “Didn’t you think it was fabulous?”
“These are the days of miracle and wonder,” sings Simon in “Boy in the Bubble,” which he chose for his opening number. Although “Graceland” was released almost 30 years ago, there is no doubt these days are still very much upon us.