Only time will tell whether Paul Simon’s shows at Forest Hills Stadium turn out to be the punctuation at the end of his legendary career.
Simon, 74, told The New York Times this week that his 61-year career was “coming towards the end.” Returning to Forest Hills Stadium, only blocks from where he grew up, brought up even more confusing feelings in Simon.
“It’s kind of a time warp, you know,” he told the crowd, which was wildly cheering every Queens reference. “I’m trying to get over whether it’s strange or some beautiful dream.”
His current North American tour, supporting his excellent new album “Stranger to Stranger” (Concord), ends Friday night in Forest Hills. And aside from a European tour in the fall, Simon has no further plans and he says now that “showbiz doesn’t hold any interest for me.”
Well, if ever there was a case of someone going out on top, this was it. Simon’s two-hour-plus show on Thursday was a luxurious thrill ride through the many phases of his career and the many styles and cultures that influenced his singular music. His nine-piece band handled it all extraordinarily well, whether it was the Latin rhythms of “Late in the Evening” or the joyous Afropop of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.”
However, there is also never any question that Simon is the show’s focus. Whether it’s “Slip Slidin’ Away,” which had more of an Americana feel over a rockabilly rhythm, or the new single “Wristband,” Simon’s work has always been detailed, insightful and sharp-elbowed, as likely to tug at your heartstrings as it is prod you to reconsider your values.
“Wristband,” currently climbing the adult alternative rock charts, is a seemingly simple tale about an artist getting locked out of a venue that grows into a tale of the haves against the have nots that sides with today’s protesters.
The timeliness of that and the crafty “The Werewolf” show that Simon’s writing and delivery are as vibrant as ever. It’s too soon to let that go, though Simon’s choice of finale, the gorgeous “American Tune,” may signal the decision is made.
“It’s all right, it’s all right, you can’t be forever blessed,” he sang, alone on the stage for the first time, before ending with, “That’s all. I’m just trying to get some rest.”
The capacity crowded waited for minutes after the song, hoping Simon would return. But he didn’t.
Maybe the huge ovations he received throughout the evening will change his mind. We can only hope.
SETLIST: The Boy in the Bubble / 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover / Dazzling Blue / That Was Your Mother / Rewrite / Honky Tonk / Slip Slidin’ Away / Mother and Child Reunion / Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard / Spirit Voices / The Obvious Child / Stranger to Stranger / Homeward Bound / El Condor Pasa (If I Could) / Duncan / The Werewolf / The Cool, Cool River / Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes / You Can Call Me Al // ENCORES: Wristband / I Know What I Know / Still Crazy After All These Years / That’s All Right / Late in the Evening / One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor / The Boxer / American Tune