Paul Simon at First Avenue, 5/3/11

Paul Simon
May 3, 2011
First Avenue, Minneapolis

An eight-piece band poured onto the First Avenue stage. An over-capacity crowd gushed down the stairs, over the rails, and pooled in the floor. 

And then, there he was, lifting a guitar around his neck and giving a "hi-how-are-ya" out of earshot of the mic. 

And so Mr. Simon would remain for his entire set--brilliantly lit and practically inaudible.

The historical significance of Paul Simon at First Avenue is beyond doubt, but the quality of the experience is in grave question. With a game wave, Simon launched into "The Boy in the Bubble," the opening track from Graceland that graduated Simon from steady fame in the 1960s and '70s to unassailable esteem ever after.  

By the time Mr. Simon finished his third song, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," there was open unrest. What began with puzzled glances in the rear rows and flanking balconies became chants of "turn it up" venue-wide. 
Paul Simon at First Avenue, 5/3/11

Paul Simon at First Avenue, 5/3/11
Photos by Steve Cohen

​The sonic bungle exacerbated a yet deeper fault--Paul Simon at First Avenue was a conceptual stretch to begin with, and the whole show operated under the assumption that staging a stadium-sized show in miniature would concentrate its intimacy. 
Paul Simon at First Avenue, 5/3/11
Paul Simon at First Avenue, 5/3/11
Photos by Steve Cohen

Critic's bias: The critic has a deep fondness for audible sound frequencies. 

The crowd: A gang in vastly unequal parts enthused at their proximity to Mr. Simon and dismayed at the sound quality.

Overheard in the crowd: "Are you going to write that the people next to you said 'turn it up?'"

Random notebook dump: There was a snap-along during "Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes." Not okay.


The Boy in the Bubble
Dazzling Blue
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover
So Beautiful or So What
Vietnam (Jimmy Cliff cover)
Mother and Child Reunion
That Was Your Mother
Hearts and Bones
Mystery Train
Slip Slidin' Away
Peace Like A River
The Obvious Child
The Only Living Boy in New York
Getting Ready for Christmas Day
Love Is Eternal Sacred Light
Father And Daughter
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes

Sound of Silence
Here Comes The Sun (Beatles cover)
Late in the Evening

Still Crazy After All These Years

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