Paul Simon Honored At Carnegie Hall Tribute Concert
Songs from throughout Simon’s illustrious career ranging from 1962’s “Motorcycle” to “Wartime Prayers” off 2006’s Surprise were performed by an all-star cast that spanned many genres and generations. While the biggest take away from the evening was the breadth and overall greatness of Paul’s songbook, the second was the talents and ability to adapt shown by the house band -Brooklyn’s Antibalas. The group was on stage for about half of the show’s 23 songs and made their presence felt with impressive, and often percussion-heavy interpretations of Simon’s compositions.
By the time the two-hour, 23-song concert came to a close with all of the evening’s performers joining in on a rendition of “The 59th Street Bridge (Feelin’ Groovy),” attendees had bared witness to many memorable moments including a “Mrs. Robinson” led by John Doe of X that was awash in punk-y guitars, 13-year-olds Megan Doyle & Snow Guilfoyle’s well-beyond-their-years interpretation of “Scarborough Fair” and Dan Wilson’s spot-on take on “Only Living Boy In New York.” Another highlight on a night filled with them was L.P.’s “Slip Sliding Away,” which combined her high-pitched vocals and whistling along with her deft ukuele skills.
The concert built to a climax after a slow, but heartfelt solo rendition of “Wartime Prayers” by Ben Sollee. Antibalas starred on a version of “Think Too Much” featuring TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe that was right in the Afrobeat group’s wheelhouse. On a night filled with musical legends, arguably the most legendary of them all, 78-year-old soul man Sam Moore, brought the house down with his gospel-infused vocals on “Loves Me Like A Rock.” Soul singer Bettye LaVette then made “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” her own and left the stage to a huge applause, at which point Antibalas pumped out a glorious minute or two instrumental reprise on the song’s main theme.
One of the evening’s big surprises was the sense of humor and overall talent shown by hitmeister Richard Marx. Marx won the crowd over with his funny introduction to “Still Crazy After All These Years” and dynamic vocal performance of the tune. Recent Rock Hall inductees Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart then laid down a beautiful version of “Old Friends,” which followed a story from Ann about listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends repeatedly while tripping on acid in 1968. Phish bassist Mike Gordon received a huge roar from the many Phish fans in attendance when he was introduced. Gordon strapped on a mini six-string guitar for an upbeat “Late In The Evening” that showed off his impressive vocal range. Mike talked about how he lets his daughter Tessa pick what music she’d like to hear and that she often picks Paul Simon songs.
There’s a reason Angelique Kidjo was picked to lead the concert’s final number, before all of the evening’s performers joined in on the “encore” of “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” Kidjo stole the show with her bombastic vocals on a “You Can Call Me Al,” backed by Antibalas. The Beninoise singer-songwriter’s sparkling personality came through in each line she sang. She even got the mostly staid crowd up on its feet and singing the song’s familiar “Na-Na-Na-Na’s” by the end of her rendition. The “Feelin’ Groovy” finale was a bit of a mess with most performers passing the microphone as if it was a game of Hot Potato. Gordon wound up with the mic at one point and shared a verse of the tune with Ann Wilson and Kidjo was more than willing to sing as much of the song as possible.
Michael Dorf has an uncanny knack for bringing together talented acts from nearly every end of the music world to honor iconic performers. While Paul Simon himself didn’t show, the power and soul of his songs made his presence felt throughout the evening.
John Doe with Antibalas -Mrs. Robinson
Judy Collins with Antibalas -Bridge Over Troubled Water
Megan and Snow -Scarborough Fair
Joe Henry -The Boxer
Joy Williams -Sound Of Silence
Madeleine Peyroux with John Herington -American Tune
L.P. -Slip Sliding Away
Josh Ritter with Antibalas -Duncan
Allen Toussaint with Antibalas -Take Me To The Mardi Gras
Bob Mould with Antibalas -Fakin It
Bob Forrest & Gibby Haynes -Motorcycle
Isobel Campbell & Andy Cabic with Antibalas -Born At The Right Time
Brett Dennen with Antibalas -Something So Right
Ben Sollee -Wartime Prayers
Dan Wilson -Only Living Boy In New York
Antibalas with Tunde Adebimpe -Think Too Much
Sam Moore with Antibalas -Loves Me Like A Rock
Bettye LaVette -50 Ways To Leave Your Lover
Richard Marx -Still Crazy After All These Years
Ann & Nancy Wilson -Old Friends
Mike Gordon with Antibalas -Late In The Evening
Angelique Kidjo with Antibalas -You Can Call Me Al
All Performers -The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)