A review of Paul Simon’s first night (May 28) of a two-night stand at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville.
Polyrhythms were the order of the day, starting with an instrumental version of “Proof,” from Paul Simon’s 1990 album “The Rhythm of the Saints.”
Simon’s tour may have met with some soggy weather at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on Saturday. But there was a cool sizzle onstage right from the opening of the show. Simon quickly served up two of his signature tunes, “The Boy in the Bubble,” from “Graceland” and his 1975 chart-topper “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” before delving more deeply into his songbook.
Selections from “Saints” and “Graceland” set the tone for the show. But there were also cherished AM-radio oldies, including his hits “Slip Slidin’ Away,” “Mother and Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” which got a singalong dance party going.
Simon and Garfunkel’s classic, “Homeward Bound,” was on the agenda too, given an alt-country spin. Weary though it is in spirit, this top-10 hit from 50 years ago never seems to get old.
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It’s amazing how robust Simon’s voice sounds all those decades later – no wear or tear on it at all. On many tunes he sounded warmer, looser, even jazzier than on their recorded versions.
Some seductive selections weren’t obvious concert candidates. “Spirit Voices” (from “Saints”), “Duncan” (from his first solo album) and “Dazzling Blue” (from 2011’s “So Beautiful or So What”) all blend lyrical melody with venturesome sonic texture. A few songs got new twists in their musical arrangements that opened them up and made them sound entirely fresh. (“Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” from “Graceland,” culminated in a full-fledged percussion-fest.)
Simon has a terrific new album to push called “Stranger to Stranger,” and if anything he didn’t push it enough. Still, he played its wistful title tune – a what-if-we’d-never-met love song – and its gleefully macabre opening track, “The Werewolf.”
The first encore included “Wristband,” the new single from “Stranger” and clearly a crowd-pleaser. The title tune from “Graceland” kept folks dancing, while “Still Crazy After All These Years” had most of them singing along again. A second encore wound things down with a subdued take on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1969 hit “The Boxer.”
One complaint: Many audience members chattered nonstop through the quieter tunes, then screamed piercingly for encores. When performers go to such trouble to deliver pristine sound that doesn’t blast your ears, it would be nice to listen.