July 17th, 2018

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

So Long, So Long

There was only one visitor from the US I cared about last week.

Earlier this year, Paul Simon announced that he'd be retiring from touring for a number of reasons, including the death of his long-time session man and friend Vincent Nguini.

His farewell tour, 'Homeward Bound', included an appearance at the British Summer Time festival in Hyde Park on Sunday 15th July, and I bought a ticket so I could say goodbye.

I arrived at the gig in a mood of annoyance at the heat, the festival organisers and their 'gates open 1pm, the act you want to see is at 8pm, you can't bring your own food and drink' policy, and my inability to see the stage at all. I wriggled my way towards the front of the cheap area and stationed myself behind a tactical gap (which would later be filled by people wearing hats).

Then Paul came on stage and went straight into 'America', and all my issues dropped away as it became a magical evening elbow to elbow with strangers and fellow-fans.

There were huge screens displaying the action, and Paul kindly wore a red T-shirt so I could pick him out on the stage when all the hats in front of me were lined up in just the right way.

He didn't talk a great deal between songs, packing a lengthy setlist into his two hours with us, but he seemed pleased and touched that we were all out there.

He did share that the old guy working at the car wash in 'Rewrite' is the same kid who gets on the bus in 'America'. 'Rewrite' is perhaps my favourite from his most recent couple of albums, so this made me happy.

There was the briefest brush with politics when he said "Strange times, huh? Keep going!" and went straight into 'American Tune'.

After a rousing, energetic concert with a huge backing band, Paul returned for a solo, acoustic encore, ending, of course, with The Sound of Silence.

That was my 7th time seeing him live, and it may be the last. I'm a bit emotional about that, but at least it was a fantastic farewell.