Thursday, June 21, 2018

Paul Simon in concert

OK, here's how it all went down:

Somewhere around noontime on Tuesday we got a private message from a friend of ours on Facebook with an unexpected question:

Would we like tickets to the Paul Simon concert that night at the Greensboro Coliseum?

Hmm. Let me think about that for a min... OK. Sure.

Who gives away tickets to a Paul Simon concert? Turns out, my friend got them from a friend who couldn't go. My friend also couldn't go. So after a few more Facebook PMs to nail down the details, she came to our house after lunch, and we had the tickets in hand.

For free. OMG, as they say.

Can you imagine...???
It had been years since we've been to a concert that didn't feature Underhill Rose or the Blue Eyed Bettys. So we weren't quite sure how to act.

Earlier in the day, I consulted the coliseum seating chart online and learned we were in the upper level, far end. Armed with that knowledge, I dug up my mini binoculars that I use to cover high school football games.

We were set to go.

We arrived at the coliseum about an hour or so before the scheduled starting time and promptly looked for our seats. The last time I was in the coliseum for a main event was probably about 10 years ago, when I last covered an ACC Tournament. The place has been renovated since then, but one thing that remained the same was the steep climb in the upper deck. We really were in the nosebleed section in Row R.

But, hey. Free tickets. Not complaining. The one concern we had was watching some of the other geriatric fans more geriatric than us struggle to get to their seats while climbing the steps. (Geriatric? Paul Simon is 76 years old. Let that one sink in). Some stopped to catch their breath along the way because, you know, we were 15,000 feet above sea level (Or see level, if I must).

An hour before start time, our line of sight at 15,000 feet above see level.
 While waiting for the concert to start and watching the crowd amble in, it occurred to me how lucky we were to be there. We were going to be in the same building, sharing the same HVAC as Paul Simon, perhaps (arguably) one of the four most iconic songwriters of my generation (in my mind, the others are Lennon & McCartney and Bob Dylan). Songs with titles like "America," "Homeward Bound," "Scarborough Fair," "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Sound of Silence" are indelibly planted in my brain (sorry).

And then the concert began. Simon opened with "America", backed by a remarkable 16-piece band that helped support him through the numerous genres of music he explores. The 25-song setlist included some Louisiana zydeco ("That Was Your Mother"), reggae ("Mother and Child Reunion"), eclectic ("Rene and Georgette Magritte with their Dog After the War"), South African influence ("You Can Call Me Al") and soft folk rock ("Bridge Over Troubled Water," which had a totally different instrumental intro so that I didn't recognize the song until he started singing it).

His voice, at times, lacked some of the depth of his youth, but the familiar timbre was there and you could never mistake who was singing.

Only five songs were from the Simon and Garfunkel catalogue ("America", "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Homeward Bound", "The Boxer" and "The Sound of Silence", and the last three were in the encore, along with "Kodachrome"). So if you climbed all those steps in the cheap seats for some S & G, you might have been slightly disappointed. Truth be told, I kinda missed Artie not being there and I hate that their feud continues at this point in their lives. Seems silly.

This is Simon's farewell tour. He seems remarkably fit for his age and vocation (he even did a little zydeco shuffle dance move) and he performed for nearly three hours without a set break.

I was glad I brought my binoculars because even though there was a huge TV screen behind him for those who couldn't see the stage well, our seats were situated precisely where our line of sight to the screen was obstructed by the huge drop-down speakers mounted above the stage. Standing in at only 5-foot-3, Simon is already hard enough to see even when you're up close.

But, hey. Free tickets. Not complaining.

In October, Billy Joel, 69, will be appearing at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem. I'm available for free tickets for that one, too.

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