Art And Emotion On Live

by José María Escudero


On Monday 30 of October it took place in the mythical theater Olympia of Paris the first of the two concerts that the singer and composer from New York Paul Simón prepared in the capital of the Sena to close the small European tour that he has carried out with object to promote his last album You´re The One.
Being myself faithful Simon´s follower for almost 30 years and possessing a vast recording collection of him, plagued of rarities and incunabular, however so far reasons of diverse nature had prevented me to attend any live performance of the brilliant New Yorker, so this was my first time and I went to the appointment full with nerves, contained emotions and big hopes. All they were full.
In the first place the chosen city, Paris, one of the most beautiful and refined cities in the planet, and the scenario of the Olympia, witness of so many musical karats in all its history, they were the ideals to prepare the spirit in the face of all the happiness that I was abouy to enjoy.
It is certain that all over the whole city there was not poster of the event, only in the big shops dedicated for sale of disks, Virgin or FNAC, some small stickers were shown stuck on Paul's disks covers by means of which the concerts were announced. Also in these centers the publicity of the new album went from some discreet advertising posters displays to anything. Nevertheless it was compensated it by the enormous luminous neon sign with Paul Simón's name in red letters over the main door of the Olympia, in the middle of boulevard of the Capuchinos, just by the Madelaine church and the Concord square.
At three in the afternoon of the same day of the concert a selected group of fans , concurrent of the group of news in internet (amps), were given appointment in the door of the Olympia summoned by the brave and helpful Nicolás Trokiner, a young from Paris, enthusiast of Simón until the delirium that has lent countless favors to all the followers, making possible the encounter of the same ones during this European tour. Although located I could not attend this appointment for tourist reasons, although I know that all went to Nicolás's house where they talked cheerily and they played Paul's compositions accompanied by a legendary guitar Martin OMP42, designed by Simón himself, of which Nicolás is proud owner.
At 7 in the afternoon I was already by the door of the Olympia and aquarter an hour later, without lines neither problems,I picked up in box office my ticket, previously acquied via telephone. To the few minutes Simón's more appreciated European fans appeared whom I had met via email or in the groups of news. It was a touching moment, full of human heat and kindness. There I could at end meet personally Joost Lenders, creator of the website Paul Simón Pages, English Simón Mugartroyd and Chris Stern, veteran Paul´s fans, the nice italianio Guido, Nicolás, and many others from all countries whose name would be impossible to mention here. In the same door of the theater, we improvised a lively colloquy about the character that united us and his grandiose work. It was almost a hour of delight, it seemed as if we all were friends that see each other everyday. Almost as touching and valuable as the concert it was this extraordinary personal experience.
On 8.15 we entered in the Olympia´s wide and long hall , with the emotion overflowing, and I threw a furious attack to the merchandising store, with high prices for the Spanish pockets, what was not obstacle to load with T-shirts, key rings and the beautiful hand program. It was an unique opportunity and I could not leave it. Most fans group seats were located in the center of the first two lines, unbeatable then.
Something last 8 thirty the band pulled up the chords of That´s Where I Belong, a gem of the new album, and in a subtle way it was illuminated the scenario tenuously being shown to a Paul Simón facing the musicians who immediately attacked the first verse of this personal song. Only a small initial hesitation, like a taking of contact, and immediately his delicate voice, and his incredible falsettos enlarged his small figure, giving beginning to a historical and masterful concert.
In the first place the scenario was so simple and minimalist as always has been in Simón's tours. This time it highlighted for kind of a dome with changing looking by means of of light effects. The illumination was very tinged and perfect, always creating an atmosphere pleasant and coonected to the song type that was performed in each moment. The absolutely perfect sound, as coming from studio, with no distortion, each instrument sounded clear and it allowed to perceive all the delicate Paul's throat modulations. Grandiose.
The sensational band, possibly the best band in the world. Although Paul took the baton of it in all moment, it was clear that the second on board was the versatile and extroverted guitarist Mark Stwart (rather he should be called strings performer since besides the electric one and of the acústic he also played the banjo and the chelo) who has acted with Dylan several times. The brilliant battery Steve Gadd was the one in charge of marking the rhythm in all moment and of coordinating the swollen percursión section, composed by 3 elements in those that Sheehan highlighted. A correct Allain Mallet in the keyboards, an agile Cedras in the accordion times, the fantastic Vincent Nguini with the guitar and the solid Bakhiti Khumalo in bass, and two elements in the section of wind (the most discreet in the group) they composed this formidable group. Well, they all and the Simón's brilliant guitar, delicate and masterful with the acoustic one, energetic and vibrant with the electric one.
Paul Simón appeared confident everytime and controlling each detail. His attitude has become more relaxed in scene and although practically he doesn't talk to the audience except to say thanks he looks happy and enjoying each note. His voice has become deeper with the age, but it is perfect, and with the same agility as usual. His falsetto continues being prodigious. The warmth, the sincerity and the emotion that Paul's voice transfers were the best musical instrument on the scenario. Although Simón has never been characterized by his dynamism in live, in this tour he gave us some unusual perfomances, like theater interpretations along the whole scenario, in Darling Lorraine, or riffs with the guitar really moved in in which he adopted expressive figures and full with claw. His attire continues being as modest as in him it is habit. He wore a Manson´s T-shirt , some pants in brown, of good mark (this time he forgot the jeans) and some leathershoes that seem to have banished to the boots. And of course headdressed with the red cap of a baseballl Mexican team, the one that lately covers his baldness (left was the toupee that he used for the first time in One-Trick-Pony). This cap has already become something usual with the mature Simón's look.
The whole concert was a full enjoyment. Pure art in its purest state. Full with deep and contagious emotion and an atmosphere loaded with magic. For me the only bit disappointment was the naked and minimalist version of Kodachrome, almost only percusionist, and with partially different lyrics. Wonderful the conjunction of guitars and percussion in the whole show, this time the horns didn't have so much protagonism in his live performing.
As algid moments I would highlight the live version of OLD, overflowing of force and with a Simon´s electric guitar deluxe. Darling Lorraine' and You´re The One were perfect, full with blends. The rock arrangements to complete band of the adolescent I Am A Rock, a true reviving. The fineness and the magic of Spirit voices, with an extraordinary musical part in substitution of the Portuguese letters. The power of Late In The Evening and mainly of Hurricane Eye whose live version is superior to the one recorded and that it put a fastener of gold to the concert. The classic You Can Call Me Al and Diamonds On The Sole Of Her Shoes put the audience on their feet again and everybody was pulled to the dance. Perfect and touching Graceland, The Late Great Johnny Ace and so many others.
Rare One Man´s Ceiling, to be the first time that Simón performs it live, a sour blues that showed the versatility of the New Yorker. Countless applauses motivated three encores that were not enough and we all forced Simon to play the nostalgic The Boxer, with a feverish audience standing up and singing along Paul, acting as a perfect choir in the famous Lile-La-Lie chorus.
Finally the audience. For me the perfect one for a Paul Simón's concert, very correct and educated but at the same time enthusiast and amusing. In the most lively moments almost the entirety of the room started up to dance, but without hysterias neither violations, because we all remained on our places and sat down after finishing the dancing moments. To know if they enjoyed you only needed just to turn back your head and notice the wide grins and the ecstasy in their faces. They all were basically middle ages people, 35 to 45 years, but a fourth part of the seating capacity were teens and tweens which is an entire symbol of the validity and timeless in this little big American Jew´s work. And of course there were some people in the same Simón's age and even older ones. Among these last ones it highlighted an American group of the third age, sat down in the balcony right side, to those that Paul himself spoke several times, and for his comments I think that among them his own mother was.
In summary a perfect concert, with one of the greatest artistic geniuses in our century, full of beauty, feelings, deep emotions and a lot of claw. The dream of my life became reality. One of the happiest moments in my existence that I will always remember. Two and a half hours of concert without pause that passed in a sigh. Some magic and art in our lives to become improve us all. The sublime thing within reach of everybody.