Paul Simon brought his Stranger To Stranger tour to London last night (November 7th) for a special show at the Royal Albert Hall.
The legendary songwriter released his first solo album in five years this summer, with ‘Stranger To Stranger’ (Clash review HERE) proving that Paul Simon had no intentions of resting on his laurels.
While the material continued some well-worn tropes – those folk flourishes, that international interest – it also threw fans a few curveballs, with the songwriter recruiting Italian producer Clap! Clap! for a few collaborations.
This sense of whimsical experimentation permeates a lucid and highly creative Albert Hall set, one that underlines Paul Simon’s abilities not only as a songwriter, but also as a musician within a band.
Opening with instrumental cut ‘Gumboots’ the set-list is future-facing, with Paul Simon determined to showcase his fascinating new record. Ever aware of his legacy, though, the songwriter offers a choice selection of his catalogue, avoiding the obvious while still pleasing fans.
A plaintive version of ‘America’ was an early highlight, leading into a spectacular one-two of ‘Mother And Child Reunion’ meets a joyous and frenetic ‘Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard’.
Often, though, it was the material from ‘Stranger To Stranger’ that proved to be the real highlights, such as the timely lyricism of ‘The Werewolf’: “Ignorance and arrogance, the national debate” he sings, a matter of hours before polls open for the American election.
The lung-bursting set ends with a triumphant version of ‘You Can Call Me Al’ – including a spasmodic burst of slap bass – before the stage is re-arranged for the first of three encores. Quietly rejoicing in the moment, Paul Simon keeps his stage chat to a minimum, clearly preferring to let his music do the talking for him.
The witty ‘One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor’ is followed by a sombre rendition of ‘The Boxer’, before Paul Simon returns to the stage, alone, for one final song. Stripped down and pared back, ‘The Sound Of Silence’ retains the quiet poetry of its composition, with Paul Simon’s playful yet dignified performance wringing out fresh resonance from those well-worn words.
A wonderful set, Paul Simon returns to the Royal Albert Hall, London tonight (November 8th) for a second instalment.