Erica Henderson Humans and vinyl records. They're like two peas in a pod. Like…
- Posted on Apr 28th 2011 2:00AM by Benjy Eisen
Jeff Fusco, Getty Images
Fittingly, then, when he took to the small but storied stage of the Fillmore in San Francisco on Wednesday night, he had a number of surprises in store. But they didn't come in the form of the setlist -- at least, for the most part. With the exception of 'Proof' and a few switch-ups, it was pretty much the same show he's been touring since April 15. The surprises came within the songs themselves -- from old classics like 'The Obvious Child' to brand new cuts like 'Rewrite,' Simon tweaked the arrangements just enough to defy expectation. 'Hearts and Bones' had new flamenco flourishes, '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover' knocked on the door of the house of smooth jazz, 'Slip Sliding Away' settled into some kind of new shuffle, even the brand-new title track 'So Beautiful or So What' (which he introduced with a shout-out to his wife, Edie Brickell, who watched from the balcony) packed a different punch than the one delivered on the album. He had a way of making old songs sound new, and new songs sound familiar.
The one constant? Between the lyrics and the melody and the rhythms -- oh the rhythms! -- Simon and his band were just so good.
The San Franciscan audience showed their appreciation by being uncharacteristically quiet during the songs and, then, uncharacteristically loud during the applause. Of course, during key moments such as a cover of Jimmy Cliff's 'Vietnam' or the Beatles' 'Here Comes the Sun' -- or even during his own 'Late in the Evening' -- there was visibly more pot smoke in the air than has probably been in seen at a Paul Simon concert since the 1970s. But, then again, he doesn't play the Hangout Music Festival for another few weeks, so we'll see if that record keeps.
All told, Simon didn't say much, except to introduce the songs, the band, say thanks and not much more. But he didn't need to. He's one of the rare legends that doesn't have to turn to nostalgia to make 30-year-old classics sound as fresh as his brand new ones...and his brand new ones as relevant as his 30-year-old classics. If Simon has been, lyrically, looking for redemption as of late, well, musically, he found it at the Fillmore on Wednesday.