Paul Simon in Tel Aviv: Keeping the Customer Satisfied

Paul Simon is a man who loves music, and who loves to perform music; on Thursday night, he proved that age alone cannot keep down a great musician down.

Sara Miller
Sara Miller
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Sara Miller
Sara Miller

(Warning: This review comes to you through the very thick rose-tinted spectacles of a decades-long fan.)

It didn't matter where you sat, stood or danced at Thursday night's Paul Simon concert in Tel Aviv, the music swirled around you and swept you up. For such a large venue, there was an intimacy normally associated with club gigs, which emanated directly from the artist and extended right to the very back of the stadium, where the crowd danced, cheered and sang along just as enthusiastically as the lucky few at the very front.

Paul Simon at a press conferernce in Tel Aviv, Thursday, July 21, 2011.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

There was no warm-up act. The man himself was on stage at almost exactly 8:30, and stayed put for more than two hours. In the sweltering heat of a Tel Aviv summer's night, he energetically launched himself into song after song, pausing only to switch guitar, thank the crowd, and to make a brief, well-received prayer for peace. There was no bevy of backing dancers, just his standard combo of supremely gifted musicians from all around the world; last night Cameroon and South Africa were represented on the Tel Aviv stage.

In an unusual move for an artist with a new album on the shelves, the playlist was dominated by well-known songs from his extensive repertoire. And the opening bars of each classic were met with whoops of recognition and delighted anticipation. Singing along (with Paul Simon!), I had the feeling that this was more of a personal experience for all present than a showcase concert at a massive arena; he certainly seemed to be enjoying it as much as the thousands who turned out.

The concert kicked off with Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, closed with a haunting rendition of The Boxer, and along the way worked in everything from from bopalicious versions of You Can Call Me Al, That Was Your Mother and Crazy Love to goose-bump inducing performances of The Only Living Boy In New York and Diamonds On The Soles of her Shoes.

This is a man who loves music. This is a man who loves to perform music. Thursday night, he proved that age alone cannot keep down a great musician down.

Particularly worthy of mention was his beautiful stripped-down rendition of The Sound of Silence, accompanied by the brandishing of hundreds of lighters and (because it's not 1983 any more) mobile phones. Yet for me, the first chords of Here Comes the Sun, my favorite Beatles song, proved the most touching moment of the night.

Paul Simon performs with guitarist Vincent Nguini at Ramat Gan Stadium.
Paul Simon performing at Ramat Gan Stadium in Israel.
Paul Simon performing at Ramat Gan Stadium in Israel.
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Paul Simon performs with guitarist Vincent Nguini at Ramat Gan Stadium.Credit: Reuters
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Paul Simon performing at Ramat Gan Stadium in Israel.Credit: Reuters
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Paul Simon performing at Ramat Gan Stadium in Israel.Credit: Reuters
Paul Simon concert at Ramat Gan Stadium

Art Garfunkel's show was the first live performance I ever saw – it was terrible. And if this turns out to be my last, I'll be more than satisfied.

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