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Concert Reviews:
Paul Simon feels pain, offers pleasure at Fox Theatre
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Paul Simon didn't have much to say, but that didn't mean his fans at the Fox Theatre had to endure the sounds of silence on Tuesday night.

Simon, a lifelong New York Yankees fan, did offer good luck wishes to the Detroit Tigers "with a tinge of pain." But mostly he let the music do the talking at the Fox, an exceptional two-hour-plus set that surveyed some 40 years of recording, both on his own and with partner Art Garfunkel, and as durable a songbook as any composer has produced during the rock 'n' roll era.

Tuesday's concert had the feel of a spirited recital, of a songwriter presenting his works and feeling free to mess with them just a little bit. Simon and his facile, elastic seven-piece band took on 24 songs from throughout his career -- with a slight emphasis on 1986's Grammy-winning "Graceland" album -- covering and in many cases adding texture and nuance to the arrangements.

There were no real drastic changes but plenty of subtle shifts that injected an element of surprise into the evening. "Boy in the Bubble" was a bit slower, with a thicker groove the built to a song-ending crescendo. A muted trumpet line added a bit of sharpness to "Slip Slidin' Away;" a multiple guitar attack lent a funky flair to "Mrs. Robinson." An agreeable looseness allowed some favorites, such as "Cecilia" and "You Can Call Me Al," to breathe a little bit more, while Simon's current layout of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" included a bit of the same African flavor that informed the "Graceland" material.

And a solo rendition of "Wartime Prayers," one of three songs Simon played form his latest album, "Surprise," was another of the show's impactful highlights.

Simon didn't alter everything, mind you. "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard," "Graceland" and "Duncan" were among the songs that received fairly faithful treatments, right down to the latter's pennywhistle. The ensemble's vocal harmonies shined on "Train in the Distance" and "Loves Me Like a Rock," while "The Boxer" benefited from dobro lines played by Jerry Douglas, who opened the evening with an equally superb if considerably shorter set with his own band.

So while Simon may have felt "a tinge of pain" on Tuesday, he was the only one. His performance at the Fox was nothing less than an absolute pleasure.



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