Paul Simon

SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Graeme Thomson


THIS was goodbye with bells on. Having announced earlier this year that the Homeward Bound tour would be his final farewell to the road, Paul Simon went out in some style, with a valedictory two-and-a-half hour trip through a songbook rivalled only by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

At 76, Simon’s powers showed little sign of waning. Backed by a big, brilliant band packed with horns, strings and percussion, capable of surfing every curve of these remarkable songs, his boyish voice was in remarkably good nick. He even threw a few faintly funky shapes during the frenetic Cajun gumbo of That Was Your Mother. A glorious Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard, the sharp, urgent Can’t Run, and sparse slap of Wristband were all reminders of what a rhythmically inventive writer he is.

Radiating all the glamour of a retired baseball coach, Simon proved a wry, amiable raconteur, sharing memories and creation stories. Yet there was little room for nostalgia. Indeed, at times the set flirted with downright irreverence. His radical “reclamation” of the hymn-like Bridge Over Troubled Water bordered on the sacrilegious, proof of an artist still bent on evolution. Elsewhere, celebratory romps through Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al and Kodachrome proved that, for all the cerebral words and painstaking craftmanship, so often Simon’s music is at its most potent emitting sheer kinetic joy.

Towards the end, the mood became more reflective, revealing new resonances. Homeward Bound, written as a young man’s anthem of displacement, now communicated a more spiritual need to belong. A deeply moving solo take on his 1973 immigrant song, American Tune, had added heft in the age of Trump, while he sang “I am leaving, I am leaving” on The Boxer with a knowing emphasis. Earlier he had promised, “I’m not stopping”, and there will be more recorded music to come, but if this was indeed the last ever sighting of Paul Simon on a Scottish stage, it was a departure entirely befitting a master.