It was 28-degrees sweltering heat, with the sun burning my shoulders and ready to see Paul Simon’s last ever performance in the UK as the finale to his tour.
I arrived at Hyde Park at 1 pm and throughout the day, I had tasted the delicious street food and experienced the entertaining music of various musicians, most notably Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor. To me everything about Hyde Park’s British Summertime festival was enjoyable. However that moment when Paul Simon walked on stage, holding a black guitar reminiscent of Graceland, I already knew that I was in for a night that I would never forget.
I am incredibly fortunate to have already seen the great Mr Simon twice: once in 2015 with sting, and once as a solo artist in 2016. While both of those performances were amazing, of course, but there was something so magical about his performance at Hyde Park that ensures my lasting memory of him will be a one of almost perfection.
To give as many fans as possible what they wanted, his setlist was packed full and varied greatly. The songs varied from old to new, popular chart hits, to more offbeat and from pop to rock to folk to reggae in typical Paul Simon fashion.
He eased the audience in with the gentle and forever beautiful Simon and Garfunkel hit ‘America’, going on to play fun solo tunes such as ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.’ He also covered his more slow songs and ballads with a band made of jazz, string and percussion musicians of the best standard.
He treated us with real anecdotes on the origins of songs such as, ‘Rene and Georgette Magritte and Their Dog After the War.’ He told a simple story about finding a photo of the artist and his wife and thinking, ‘Woah what a great title for a song.’ He also detailed his hope to reclaim ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ after years of it being Art Garfunkel’s song. Songs like ‘You Can Call Me Al’ and ‘Kodachrome’ will always get crowds of all ages singing and dancing, giving that warm and content feeling within. While ‘The Boxer’ gave me an odd feeling of solidarity in an unexpected way. There is nothing like 50,000+ people singing nonsensical ‘Lie-la-lie.’ It truly was an amazing
Of course, there are songs that I would have liked to have heard: ‘Hearts and Bones’, ‘Cecelia’ and ‘Gone At Last’ to name a few. But this man has a huge catalogue of amazing songs and he gave us what he could in a two-hour slot.
There’s something that Sting said in concert with Paul, that resonates with me now, more than ever. He said, ‘Paul Simon has a song for every life event.’ It’s unbelievably true. Need a song for a wedding, a funeral, a divorce or a tune to carry you across an American road trip, Paul is right there with you. If you don’t know his music then give it a listen. If you do know his music then give it a revisit. This man is talented and he was not an act of the festival, really he was the festival itself.
He gave an outstanding and memorable performance and I’m sure he’ll be missed here in the UK. We have a lot to thank him for, and I for one am definitely still crazy for him after all these years.