Paul Simon has been a musical hero of mine since I was a kid. For whatever reason, the album, Sounds of Silence resonated with me as a young person. I would scribble the lyrics to, “I am a Rock” and “The Sound of Silence” all over my notebooks. The Simon and Garfunkel music catalog catapulted me into a life-long love affair with folk music.
To be able to see Paul Simon play to a sold-out crowd on Saturday night at PNC Pavilion was a pure delight. At a little past 8 o’clock, Paul and his band strutted on stage and got right into it with, “The Boy in the Bubble” followed by, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
The beginning chords of, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” got everyone up on their feet dancing. As the song came to an end, exclaims from the audience to play it again were heard. Simon asked, “Play it again?” before launching into a mostly instrumental repeat of the song.
Simon asked whether anyone had a request. Many voices from the audience shouted out song titles. With a smirk, he quipped, “I’m sorry, I don’t do requests,” before launching into “Spirit Voices,” a song about Simon taking a trip on the Amazon river and having a healing experience with ayahuasca.
“You Can Call Me Al” brought the house down. After which Simon and the band hopped off stage as if the night was over. No one budged, we knew that was not the end of the night. They jumped back on stage and broke out into, “Wristband” followed by, “Graceland” (a song written by Simon said to be about a trip he took after divorcing the late Carrie Fisher).
Throughout the show, a baseball cap with a small “e” rested on his mic stand. Simon returned for Encore No. 2 with it atop his head for the first time. He explained, “This cap that I’m wearing,” he said, “it represents an organization called Half-Earth that was started by a scientist, E.O. Wilson, who coincidently is 88 years old today. His book, ‘Half-Earth’ – which I recommend to anyone who is interested in ecology and the planet and saving what we’ve got – had a great effect on me. So, the proceeds from this tour are all going to his foundation.”
“The Boxer” had the audience in full singalong mode, Simon backed away from his mic and seemed to take in the crowd singing to him. In the past, Simon has suggested that the lyrics of “The Boxer” are largely autobiographical, written during a time when he felt he was being unfairly criticized.
“Anger is an addiction,” he said, as he prepared to close the show. “The brain likes it. … And right now, we’ve got a nation of addicts. Who is the dealer? The media. Don’t give in to it.”
His band left the stage and a single spotlight beamed down on Simon. He picked up his guitar and as the beginning chords of “The Sound of Silence” began, you could hear a pin drop in the pavilion. It was a breathtaking end to an amazing concert.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten Thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
The Boy in the Bubble
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
That Was Your Mother
Mother and Child Reunion
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard
The Obvious Child
Stranger to Stranger
El Condor Pasa (If I Could)
My Little Town
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al
Still Crazy After All These Years
Questions for the Angels
One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor
Late in the Evening
The Sound of Silence