Review: Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center, 10/26/11

Categories: Last Night

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Chip Kalback
Paul Simon last night at 1STBANK Center
PAUL SIMON at 1STBANK CENTER | 10/26/2011
It was not late in the evening when Paul Simon began to play. It was exactly 8:22 p.m., in fact -- and it's interesting to note that, when he penned the story of his journey as a musician in that song more than thirty years ago, he hadn't even reached his halfway point. More than probably any other act as seasoned, Simon has been incredibly reliable both as a songwriter and a performer as his '50s-bred brethren either got increasingly silly-seeming (a la The Rolling Stones) or faded into obscurity. And his show last night made it abundantly clear that there's a reason for that.

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Chip Kalback
Secret Sisters last night. See more pics in our full Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center slideshow.

First off, there wasn't more than a minute of wasted time from start to finish. Opener Secret Sisters -- two down-home girls from Alabama with a single acoustic guitar -- started at exactly 7:30 p.m. and played a set that consisted mostly of country covers and a couple of sentimental originals sung in tight harmony reminiscent of, well, Simon and Garfunkel, actually. It was pleasant enough, and the crowd received it noncommittally. They wrapped around 8:10.

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Chip Kalback
Paul Simon last night. See more pics in our full Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center slideshow.

Just over ten minutes later, Simon came out and launched right into what would be a more than two-hour set with few interruptions, opening with "The Boy in the Bubble," from Graceland and segueing without interruption into "Dazzling Blue," from his latest, So Beautiful or So What. Which was no coincidence: He's currently touring behind So Beautiful, but the recent 25th anniversary of Graceland apparently has him in a reminiscent mood -- he'll reportedly perform that album in its entirety with the original band on his next tour -- and throughout the set, he struck a pretty even balance between both albums, with a couple of other crowd-pleasers thrown in along the way. Like the next song, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

It was only after those three songs that Simon even took a break to say a few words -- a joke about the crazy Denver weather and an "I love this town" remark -- before plowing straight back in with the title track from So Beautiful. In fact, he probably said no more than twenty words throughout, and that's basically the timbre of the performance: all business, no frills, no weirdness, no elaborate set pieces, no stage antics, just Paul Simon rendering studio-perfect versions his songs, with a few odd covers, including the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" in the encore.

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Chip Kalback
Paul Simon last night. See more pics in our full Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center slideshow.

But man, were they ever perfect. Despite the somewhat weird, echo-ey acoustics in the venue (and Simon's vocals could have been a tad louder, but that's always the way), it might have been playing from your stereo, all those crazy, multi-textured Paul Simon-style arrangements included and all the instrumentation -- the full horn section, the bunches of esoteric percussion, the organ, the sitar, the sax solos, the African Mbaqanga singers -- everything. But while the renditions were flawless, they were also elastic, leaving extra room during a few songs for some extremely accomplished jamming -- "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," for example, built to a pretty epic drum-solo.

Given the breadth of Simon's sonic influences, it was at least a little surprising that about the extent of the diversity the audience had to offer was the wide variety of hippie-dancing ("It's like the Star Wars cantina of hippies in here," remarked my companion, after a hippie who had been frolicking -- literally frolicking -- around her implored her to dance). Also, there was a girl there dressed as a banana. And I smelled at least four different strains of weed.

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Chip Kalback
Paul Simon last night. See more pics in our full Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center slideshow.

But the people, whatever their demographic composition, got everything they came for and more: They danced to "Kodachrome" and to "Gone at Last." They held up their lighters for his first-encore solo-with-acoustic-guitar rendition of "The Sound of Silence." By the time the second encore wrapped and everyone went home in time to get up for work the next day, it's safe to say nobody could possibly have asked for more. And if the closing number happened to be "Still Crazy after All These Years," and if that song's sentiment happened to come off a little ironic under the circumstances, so what? Paul Simon may not exactly be crazy these days, but he did manage to blow that crowd away.

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Chip Kalback
Paul Simon last night. See more pics in our full Paul Simon at 1STBANK Center slideshow.

Click through for Critic's Notebook and setlist

Location Info

Map

1STBANK Center

11450 Broomfield Lane, Broomfield, CO

Category: Music

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4 comments
@theConcert
@theConcert

The show was poor. Acoustics in 1st Center are bad. It is a hockey rink built to reflect noise. His backing band was no more than adequate. You can cover up poor performance with a lot of sax, and that's what they did. The drums solo was amateurish. Finally, Paul is 70. He maybe a great songwriter and lyricist, but he now has a 1 octave vocal range. Just like with Daltry weeks before, he kept to the unexciting low registers.. the real reason the reviewer could not hear him sing.

It's the last concert I'll attend at 1st Center. It's not worth the money or the trip.

Walkinjingle
Walkinjingle

This was a fantastic show!  Tons of songs, only about four or so from his latest (and great) album So Beautiful or So What, filled in with lots of Graceland songs and gems spanning his long career.  Crack backup band filled the First Bank Center with first rate sound from where we were: stands straight back from the stage.

First Bank Center is a great venue.  The location sucks, but once inside, the sound is good, vibe is mellow, and twice I've seen shows there, The Dead and the Fourmile Canyon benefit where the place was GA and they undersold it so there was plenty of room for all the hippies to dance.  Classy :)

Only drawback is that, due to it's design as a hockey rink, most of the majority of stands face 90 degrees from the stage so you have to turn your neck all night.  That's why we chose straight back.  It was far away but still rockin'

Bro
Bro

1st Bank Center Sucks. Lame!

Jacobsonic
Jacobsonic

It was a great show, and the 1st Bank Center is an awesome venue. I actually left wishing he'd of played more new tunes! How often do you say that after seeing an artist who made his name in the 70s?!

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