There’s nothing quite like seeing and hearing a singer you first heard half a century ago and finding out that, yes, he was pretty great then and maybe he’s greater now.
So it was for me attending, with my wife Patricia, Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour 2018” in Dublin at the RDS horse show and rugby stadium on, of all dates, Friday, July 13.
The evening was unseasonably warm for Ireland, which has been in the grip of a weeks-long heatwave, and the mood in the packed stadium, which has seating and standing room for 18,500, was mellow and friendly. That could have been because most of us were of the age of people like me, who first heard Simon with his then singing partner Art Garfunkel in the Shriver Hall at The Johns Hopkins University on Oct 21, 1966.
Simon & Garfunkel were among the singers and bands that epitomised the 1960s. They captured the feeling of hope we had that our generation was going to forge a better future, they radiated the frustration and anger at the waste and carnage of the Vietnam War and they gave off a vibe that change was around the corner, or at least possible.
“The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls. And whispered in the sound of silence,” Simon & Garfunkel sang in their earnest, young voices for the 1965 recording of Simon’s masterpiece, “The Sounds of Silence”.
Simon is now 76 but he still has his voice, and his social conscience. He introduced one of the almost 30 songs he and his crack 15-piece band performed for well over two hours by saying it was inspired by his concern about the threats to the world’s ecology (“Questions for the Angels”). He sang “Wristband”, from his 2016 album “Stranger to Stranger”, that is about entry to the inner sanctums of power:
“The riots started slowly with the homeless and the lowly
Then they spread into the heartland towns that never get a wristband
Kids that can’t afford the cool brand whose anger is a short-hand
For you’ll never get a wristband and if you don’t have a wristband then you can’t get through the door.”
Simon is well past the mid-point of his farewell tour that began in Vancouver in May and will end in September in the New York City borough of Queens, where he and Garfunkel met and started singing together in elementary school. Let’s hope that Simon, and Garfunkel, who is sure to join him on stage there, will raise their voices loud enough to be heard by a native of that borough, the one Simon foretold in the lyrics of his most famous song: “The people bowed and prayed, to the neon God they’d made.” If the people in Queens join in singing, as the audience in Dublin did, which you can hear in the audio clip of “Homeward Bound” attached above, those sounds of silence will be heard.
By Michael Roddy