Two old warhorses of '60s pop prove they can still play like they did when they were teenagers...
Between them, Paul Simon and Brian Wilson rack up nearly 120 years of life, 75 years of recording, and hundreds of songs they’ve played thousands of times. But watching these guys on the opening night of their 28-city joint tour, it’s clear they still really like their own songs and can still perform them with enthusiasm and vitality.
Admittedly, Wilson’s stage presence is just this side of robotic. He spends most of his set seated behind a Yamaha electric keyboard and connects the songs with the most ridiculous patter in modern history: “Want to rock and roll?”; “This is our good vibes song.” The hour-long 20 song set is a little surf-heavy – why he favors ‘Barbara Ann’ over ‘Marcella’ is truly puzzling. But his mission is to provide a fast glimpse of his entire career and he truly wants to please the crowd. “Here’s the first song I ever wrote!” he’ll exclaim, and later: “This one is Paul McCartney’s favorite song!” There isn’t a touch of guile or showbizzy manipulation. After each song he looks around bewildered, as if to say, “Gee, I did that?”
Simon doesn’t even try to touch all the bases. With detours to ‘Graceland’ and the Garfunkel days (‘I Am A Rock’ is astounding) he serves up a generous helping of the rhythm-driven narratives that have dominated his later albums. Everything is at the same buoyant pitch, and he’s having so much fun that you’re halfway home before you remember to shout out for ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’.
There are a lot of bored performers cashing in, and we go see them to recapture our youth or laugh at their age. Simon and Wilson may look older than in their prime, but they still play like they were kids.